Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Beacon Shampoo Lawsuit Moves Forward


June 29, 2016 11:29AM

Our legal challenge to Tennessee’s shampoo licensure requirement cleared an enormous hurdle Friday when the Davidson County Chancellor denied the State’s motion to throw out the case.

The State argued that safety concerns (posed by shampooing hair) were so obvious that the case should just get thrown out now. The judge was not persuaded. Shampooing is just as it sounds. Our client, Ms. Pritchard, would put her hands in the same shampoo anyone can get at a grocery store, apply it to wet hair, lather, and rinse with water. Most people wash their hair all the time and struggle to think of a way in which they could hurt themselves doing it.

The State also argued in its motion that it was immune from a lawsuit because of “sovereign immunity.” While ordinarily states do enjoy a measure of immunity from lawsuits, they aren’t immune from constitutional suits like Ms. Pritchard’s. She’s not trying to make money from this lawsuit. Ms. Pritchard just wants her rights respected. And state officials aren’t immune from enforcing unconstitutional laws since unconstitutional laws are illegitimate in the first place. Without the ability to bring constitutional lawsuits, citizens would be awfully helpless in the face of abuse. The courts were devised to be a vital tool in maintaining the constitutional balance.

Ms. Pritchard will have her day in court. Going forward, we will be arguing about the important stuff, not procedural trifles. No matter how it turns out, Ms. Pritchard will know whether her right to engage in a career is protected by the state and federal constitutions or not. If states can take away the ability to do something as simple as washing hair upon the pretext of “safety,” then it is impossible to imagine a job that would not be dangerous enough that states could take it away if they wished.

It would be a simple matter of imagining some far-fetched safety scenario and then moving on to wreck the next career path. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Let it end now.