Institute for Justice, citing “impasse” with Louisiana State Board of Cosmetology and asserting it’s “baselessly delaying trial” on hair braiding litigation, obtains status conference for October 5.

Louisiana State Board of Cosmetology attorney Sheri Morris provides 14-second “update” on Institute for Justice v. Louisiana State Board of Cosmetology at the Board’s meeting of Monday, October 3, 2022.

On June 20, 2019, we published this feature on the Institute for Justice’s (IJ) lawsuit against the Louisiana State Board of Cosmetology (LSBC) in which IJ asserts the LSBC’s 500-hour requirement for obtaining a hair braiding permit is not necessary and that, in reality, LSBC is violating Louisiana’s Constitution in requiring the permit.

Yesterday, we dropped in and visited with the fine folks at the LSBC and videotaped its meeting.  We were especially interested in hearing Ms. Sheri Morris, attorney for the LSBC, provide her legal report.  She was last on the agenda, and Morris spoke in a very low (super-low in fact) tone which boarded on mumbling.

She did devote the grand total of 14 seconds to updating the LSBC Members on the hair braiding litigation (though one may argue it was a concerted effort to keep them in the dark).  Because her low tone of voice left plenty to be desired, we did our own closed-captioning of every word she said in order that our viewers can know exactly what she did say in those 14 seconds.  Here’s that 14-second video clip:

LSBC attorney Sheri Morris “updates” the LSBC Members on the status of IJ v. LSBC.

In our experience, when an attorney really doesn’t want to be heard, there’s typically a pretty good reason, and, judging by this Memo Seeking a Status Conference filed by IJ on September 1, 2022, we’d say there was probably pretty good reason why Morris didn’t want to be heard and why she refrained from providing the LSBC Members with any specifics.  From the memo:

Plaintiffs have again and again tried to move toward trial. But the Board refuses to complete its portion of the pretrial order, as required by Local Rule 9.14(1), leaving this case in limbo. This Court’s intervention is necessary to resolve the impasse.

They only seek declaratory and injunctive relief recognizing that (1) the permit requirement violates the state constitutional right to practice one’s occupation free from unreasonable government interference, and (2) the Board violated the separation of powers when it decided to regulate natural hair braiding although nothing in the cosmetology statute requires it to do so.

Plaintiffs have answered the Board’s extensive written discovery requests. They have sat for depositions. At several junctures, they have provided supplemental discovery to address the Board’s requests for additional information.

At every turn, the Board has raised baseless obstacles when it has not ignored Plaintiffs entirely. As a result, this case is no closer to trial today than it was in March.

I. The Board Is Baselessly Delaying Trial.

The gist of the Board’s “outstanding discovery” argument is that the case cannot go to trial until Plaintiffs produce comprehensive personal and business financial records.  But Plaintiffs do not seek economic damages-only prospective declaratory and
injunctive relief-making evidence of economic harm irrelevant.

On August 18, Plaintiffs emailed the Board with another request for their portion of the proposed pretrial order pursuant to Local Rule 9.14(2)(B). See Ex. 9, Pls.’ Email to Defs. (Aug. 18, 2022). A week later, the Board’s attorneys responded for the first time in four months. See Ex. 10, Defs.’ Let. To Pls. (Aug 26, 2022). They again
refused to provide their portion of the proposed pretrial order or provide any comments on Plaintiffs’ draft of the joint fact stipulation. See id. They only renewed their objection that discovery is incomplete, arguing that Plaintiffs’ June 8 production was insufficient and not made in good faith. See id.  The Board’s renewed objection-raised after four months of radio silence-is
as baseless as it is late. Plaintiffs have already produced what they have; and they turned over many irrelevant materials in a show of good faith. The Board is not entitled to additional information. What the Board is seeking now is a detailed financial accounting that will be inadmissible at trial. As the attached communications show, Plaintiffs have bent over backwards to cooperate. This Court’s
intervention is needed for this case to move forward.

So, there you have it folks!  This is the same LSBC which routinely goes to the Louisiana Legislature begging for funds misrepresenting why they need a license fee increase!  They repeatedly say things like the building is in disrepair, new equipment is needed, etc., but they never address the massive amount they’re willing to spend in legal fees (just look at the needless depositions referenced above) maintaining roadblocks to honest, hard-working people trying to make a living just as is done in so many other states entailing hair braiding, including our neighbors to our East (Mississippi – thanks to IJ).

Fortunately, we had a very reliable source with his pulse solidly on the Legislature who told us that we didn’t need to expend “one ounce” of energy devoted to blocking the latest fee increase attempted in this past Legislative Session.

That source told us that there are now too many Legislators who “know what time it is” entailing the LSBC and that there was, “no way in Hell” that a bill entailing a license fee increase would, “ever clear the House this year.”

That source was spot on, and we told him we were thankful because we had (and have) our hands full just trying to tackle a few of the latest rampant problems at Louisiana State Police and that we really didn’t have a ton of time to have to expend working on blocking what is now the fourth attempt at a license fee increase since this blog was formed just so that the LSBC can engage in such foolishness as that outlined above!

We would assume that Judge Wilson Fields, who has granted a Status Conference as requested by IJ which will transpire tomorrow, Wednesday, October 5, 2022, will seek to establish a clear deadline for the Pre-Trial Order.  Once it is filed into the public record, we’ll certainly alert our subscribers and, once a trial date is set, we commit to attend and report upon this longstanding matter finally being resolved.

CLICK HERE for the LSBC meeting of Monday, October 3, 2022 in its entirety.

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One thought on “Institute for Justice, citing “impasse” with Louisiana State Board of Cosmetology and asserting it’s “baselessly delaying trial” on hair braiding litigation, obtains status conference for October 5.”

  1. Sheri Morris is an incredible attorney with much experience and has not only wonderful presentation skills but is also very loyal and personable with her clients. She is a terrific asset to this community and it is upsetting that you judge her based on a 14 second announcement she made.

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