Litigation Update: Will McLemore v. State of Tennessee


December 9, 2019 4:27PM

When Will McLemore started McLemore Auction Company in 2006, it was one of the first online auction houses in the country. At the time, most auctioneers practiced exclusively in live auctions, but with the growth of online shopping, online auctions presented new opportunities for auctioneers to grow their businesses around the country. Will, with his traditional live-auction background, had already gotten his auctioneering education, served as an apprentice, and gotten his auctioneer license—all requirements that he believes to be too overbearing. “I am sure the auctioneer license requirement has kept interested entrepreneurs out of the business. The apprenticeship is the most onerous requirement by far. It can keep qualified service providers from being able to operate independently in the state,” Will argues. “A lot of harm has been done in the name of protecting the public. Instead, the auction law protects the industry from competition and from having to adapt to innovations in the industry.”

When the Tennessee General Assembly passed a law in 2019 to further regulate online auctions, Will knew he had to do something about it. “I’ve been working to prevent the State of Tennessee from regulating online auctions since 2014,” he says. While Will is licensed, he is still directly hurt by these new regulations because Will’s auction managers, people who have helped him build the business, are unlicensed and can no longer work.

The Beacon legal team worked with Will to form a coalition of concerned auctioneers and file in court to stop the law from going into effect. “The lawsuit we filed last year was just the next step in carrying out a long campaign to preserve the freedom we have had to operate since 2006 when the legislature deregulated online auctions. There are 25 states that do not regulate auctioneers at all. The market works just fine in these states.”

After Beacon filed a case on Will’s behalf, a judge issued a preliminary injunction to stop the law from going into effect, allowing Will to continue working until the matter is decided. In response, Will said, “The Beacon Center has been a dedicated and resourceful ally in our fight to preserve freedoms that matter to everyday Tennesseans. They have aided us as we fought to prevent the Auctioneer Commission from regulating online auctions via an improper rule and continued to help us get our message across as we opposed new legislative efforts to regulate online auctions. When we ultimately failed to prevent the state’s latest effort, the Beacon Center put together a legal strategy to take the fight to Federal Court. We couldn’t have pursued the matter in court without the Beacon Center. Braden Boucek’s efforts in Federal Court have been nothing less than masterful — and we have the preliminary injunction to show for it now.”

At Beacon, our work is motivated by people like Will—people who know they’ve been treated wrongly by the government and need help to make things right. While Will’s fight is far from over, we are proud of the success we have had thus far, and we will continue to fight for the rights of Tennesseans.