Sunday, March 29, 2009, 9:08 AM
On Friday, in Brown v. Hovatter, the Fourth Circuit rejected constitutional challenges to a Maryland law that restricts licenses for morticians and funeral homes. The statute prohibits corporate ownership of a mortician's license or funeral home; and it prohibits unlicensed individual ownership of funeral homes. The libertarian Institute for Justice, which frequently challenges anti-competitive licensing schemes around the nation, challenged the Maryland law under the equal protection, due process, and dormant commerce clauses. The suit contended that "Maryland funeral industry members profit handsomely from the most blatantly anti-competitive funeral regulation in the nation, [effectively] add[ing] nearly $800 to the cost of a funeral in Maryland." The district court held that the statute violates the dormant commerce clause. The Fourth Circuit disagreed.