Tour guides in New Orleans often take heat for telling tall tales, and those in the industry are defending their right to talk untested. Almost two years ago, New Orleans passed a licensing law that imposes strict regulations on tour guides. Four people in the industry took issue with the ruling, and they challenged it based on their First Amendment rights. The Eastern District of Louisiana ruled against the plaintiffs, and the free speech fighters are appealing the Court’s decision.
The Institute of Justice, a national organization that describes itself as “the national law firm for liberty,” has taken up the cause of the buggy-bound babblers.
The municipal law dictates that all tour guides must pass a history exam, be tested for drugs, and pass an FBI criminal background check every two years. If tour guides are taught teaching unlicensed, they can face fines up to $300 for one violation, and five months in jail.
In a statement IJ’s release, IJ attorney Matt Miller said, “Tour guides simply walk around and talk to people about a place, and that speech is squarely protected by the First Amendment,” said the lead counsel in the lawsuit and executive director for the Institute for Justice Texas Chapter.
New Orleans native and lead plaintiff Candace Kagan said she is staying strong in her fight against fines. “We are willing to take this fight as far as it needs to go,” said Kagan. “We are fighting not just for our First Amendment rights, but for free speech for everyone.”
According to the release, the Crescent City’s cause is one of many national cases involving free speech protections as they relate to commerce. “These cases raise one of the most important unanswered questions in First Amendment law: Can occupational licensing laws trump free speech,” asked IJ Senior Attorney Paul Sherman.
Written by M.D. Dupuy