Friday, November 22, 2013

Insert nail-in-the-coffin joke here

(We're a little late to the party on this one but you will understand after reading the below why it is worthy of reporting out on)

A story we have been following for over 3 years appears to have finally reached a happy and just conclusion.

The good monks of Saint Joseph Abbey of Covington, LA, had been making simple un-adorned caskets as a means of income for the Abbey for over 100 years. The monks ability to make and sell these caskets didn't sit well with state agency that regulates such matters (You would not be surprised to learn that embalmers and funeral directors make up 8 of the 9 members of the Louisiana State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors) and as a result the monks were given a cease and desist order by the Board regarding the Abbey's hand-crafted caskets as they were unlicensed... and cheaper than the government-approved caskets of Big Funeral.

The monks turned around and sued the Board 5 years ago under the 14th amendment which prohibits states from, "depriv(ing) any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law."

Back in April, the federal judge hearing the case found the Louisiana state law by which the monks were being mandated to be unconstitutional. The court ruled that the Louisiana licensing law represented economic favortism in its effective barring of competition in that particular marketplace and that the law did not serve the greater interest of the citizens of Louisiana.

This was a classic case of regulatory capture where the moneyed interests of Big Funeral used the regulatory regime to eliminate competition and thus prop-up their expensive our-caskets-only business model.

However, Big Funeral did not go gently into the good night and instead appealed to the Supreme Court. The Supremes refused to hear the case letting the lower court decision stand.

Here's one of the monks commenting on the entire affair:

"I was hesitant at the beginning to file the lawsuit. But it's the best thing that could have happened to our business," Abbot Justin Brown of St Joseph Abbey told the Los Angeles Times.

"We had all this excellent publicity, and now we are selling more caskets than we had ever expected. I think a lot of people heard about our case against the funeral directors and decided to buy one of our caskets."

However small our part was, we have been more than happy to give this important case free publicity.

No god-awful nail-in-the-coffin jokes here, just a simple case closed on a battle and huge victory for free markets.