Thursday, August 9, 2012 | 7 comments

Federal Judge Strikes Down Utah’s Hairbraiding License Requirements

By Connor Boyack

Jestina Clayton was raised in a village in Sierra Leone and was taught traditional African hair-braiding. Now living in Centerville, Utah, Clayton wanted to provide these services to a growing niche market.

She started her own hair-braiding business and advertised her services online. After some time, she received an email stating: “It is illegal in the state of Utah to do any form of extensions without a valid cosmetology license. Please delete your ad, or you will be reported.”

The email was correct. Braiding hair in Utah requires a license which takes 2,000 hours of schooling and over $16,000 in tuition fees.

That is, until today’s ruling by a federal judge.

Clatyon’s case was taken up by attorneys with the Institute for Justice, a libertarian public-interest law firm. After months of hearings, Judge David Sam of the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah held that “The right to work for a living in the common occupations of the community is of the very essence of the personal freedom and opportunity that the Constitution was designed to protect.”

Clayton is, of course, quite happy. “I am so grateful,” she said. “It has been a long time that I’ve been fighting with Utah just so that I could braid hair. I am relieved that the judge saw the facts of my situation and protected the right to earn a living when the other branches of government did not. I am looking forward to getting back to work and to my clients who had been so supportive of my fight.”

Libertas Institute is grateful for the dedicated support of the Institute for Justice in protecting one’s right to work. Clayton’s victory is a victory for us all, and one small step in fighting back against the institutionalized attacks on free enterprise.

Read IJ’s press release, or read the judge’s ruling.

About the Author

Connor Boyack is president of Libertas Institute. He is the author of several books on politics and religion, including the Tuttle Twins series for children.

Skyler Collins
Skyler Collins

I don't know that Washington-based centralized licensing laws (which is what a Federal ruling amounts to) are compatible with libertarian principles. What say ye, Libertas?

cboyack moderator

 @Skyler Collins This ruling doesn't codify any new law nor establish any anti-liberty precedent. In fact, it does the opposite. While I'm no fan of the court system in general, I don't see this ruling as centralizing anything in D.C. and simply see it as a judicial opinion that Utah's licensing laws are excessive as it applies to people like Jestina -- something with which I agree. That said, the better route -- and the route we'll be taking through Libertas -- is to have the licensing laws reduced/repealed so that more people are able to engage in commerce as they please, and judicial opinions such as this are not needed.


  1. […] Boyack Just two months ago, a federal judge ruled in favor of a small businesswoman wishing to braid the hair of consenting customers without having to apply for a license and receive state-approved training […]

  2. […] represented by the Institute for Justice, sued the state and won, leading to legislative changes in the following session that fully exempted hair braiders like […]