Judge denies motion to dismiss case involving monks building custom caskets

By Alejandro de los Rios | Apr 12, 2011


A federal judge will hear a case of a group of Benedictine monks seeking to sell caskets without a state license.

The St. Joseph Abbey of Covington, La., filed an injunction against the Louisiana Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors, arguing that they cannot prevent the monks from selling their caskets.

The Institute for Justice filed the lawsuit in August 2010 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. It claims the state's licensing laws are "arbitrary, excessive, and anachronistic."

Louisiana state law mandates that anyone seeking to sell caskets must complete a yearlong apprenticeship in a licensed funeral home and then pass an industry certification test.

The monks argue these laws are meant to limit the amount of dealers selling caskets.

The plaintiffs claim the licensing procedure violate their "right to due process of law under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution."

The defendants filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit Dec. 6, 2010 claiming the plaintiffs failed to state a claim in which relief could be granted.

Federal Judge Stanwood Duval Jr. issued his ruling in favor of the monks on March 8.

"The Court sees no basis to create a per se rule of law that economic protectionism is a legitimate state interest," Duval wrote.

Institute for Justice attorneys Scott Bullock, William Mellor and Jeff Rowes; and New Orleans attorney F. Evans Schmidt are representing St. Joseph Abbey.

Metairie attorneys Preston Hayes and Michael Rasch are representing the Embalmers and Funeral Directors.

Louisiana State Attorneys Charles Belsom Jr. and Uma Subramanian are representing the State of Louisiana.

Federal Case 2:10-cv-02717

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