Opinion: High court weighs in on professional licensing requirements

In the wake of a recent Supreme Court ruling, many professional boards in the United States “will be vulnerable to antitrust suits for anti-competitive regulations,” say Aaron Edlin, a professor of law and economics at Berkeley, and Rebecca Haw Allensworth, an associate professor of law at Vanderbilt University.


Under a new Supreme Court ruling, a florist might challenge state regulators’ licensing requirements, and so might those in a number of other professions.

And “that is a good thing,” they write in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal.

In North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners v. Federal Trade Commission, a Feb. 25 decision, the justices ruled that state licensing boards controlled by those who practice a profession “are exempt from antitrust lawsuits only if they are also supervised by the state government,” they report.

So what? In fact, “the stakes are high, as roughly 30 percent of the U.S. workforce needs an occupational license,” say Edlin and Allensworth. They add that numerous lawsuits may follow — be it from florists suing “for the right to arrange roses without having to pass an expensive test created and scored by their would-be competitors” or African-style hair braiders suing cosmetology boards that require newcomers to spend many thousands of dollars on professional training.

For more on the High Court decision and what it means, read Edlin and Allensworth’s piece on the Berkeley Law website.