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Interior Designers Win Challenge to Titling Law

(CN) - Texas cannot enforce a titling law that bars unlicensed interior designers from advertising themselves as "interior decorators" or "interior designers." The court said the state failed to justify the restriction on commercial speech.

To become licensed, Texas law requires prospective interior designers to graduate from a state-recognized educational program, gain professional experience, pass an exam and pay a fee. Unlicensed practitioners are not allowed to call themselves interior designers.

A group of experienced designers challenged the law as a violation of their First Amendment right to engage in commercial speech. They have all been practicing interior design for some years, but none has qualified to sit for the exam.

The district court denied the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction and held that neither party met the evidentiary requirements for summary judgment.

On appeal, the court in New Orleans established that it had jurisdiction over the injunction ruling, but not on the lower court's refusal to grant summary judgment.

Judge Jones acknowledged that, to win an injunction, it's usually the plaintiff's job to show that he or she will likely win the case. But with cases of commercial speech, Jones said Texas bore the burden of justifying its restriction.

"Applying the proper standards, we have little difficulty in concluding that appellants are likely to succeed on their claim because the State has not shown its ability to justify the statute's constitutionality," Jones concluded.

The court vacated and remanded, instructing the district court to preliminarily enjoin enforcement of the titling law.

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