Ursula Newell-Davis is a social worker who cannot practice her profession in Louisiana because the state government says limiting the number of social workers “eases its regulatory burden.” Yet, in part because of a 150-year-old U.S. Supreme Court precedent that to this day restricts individual liberties, this justification is all the state needs to block Ursula from providing critically needed services to at-risk New Orleans youth. The Pelican Institute for Public Policy and the Pacific Legal Foundation have taken on her case and on Monday asked the Supreme Court to overturn that damaging precedent.

That precedent is a series of decisions known as the Slaughter-House Cases. In 1873, butchers in New Orleans challenged a Louisiana state law that granted a slaughterhouse monopoly to one company. The butchers argued that this law violated their right to practice their trade—a right they believed was protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. The Supreme Court issued a ruling that narrowly interpreted the Privileges or Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, holding that it only protected rights associated with federal citizenship and not those tied to state citizenship. That resulted in a detrimental impact on individual rights and economic liberties ever since.

Together with the Pacific Legal Foundation, the Pelican Institute filed a petition for certiorari on behalf of their client, Ms. Newell-Davis, urging the Supreme Court to reexamine the precedent set by the Slaughter-House Cases and to consider its impact on economic freedom and individual liberties.

In Ms. Newell-Davis’s case, Louisiana’s respite care licensing process excludes many qualified applicants like her from entering the profession, purportedly to “ease its regulatory burden.” The Pelican Institute and the Pacific Legal Foundation argue that the Slaughter-House Cases precedent has allowed this type of restriction to go unchallenged, thereby hindering economic freedom and affecting the availability of essential services for special needs children.

“By asking the Supreme Court to take on this case, we are taking a concrete step towards unlocking economic opportunities that have been stifled for far too long,” said Daniel Erspamer, CEO of the Pelican Institute.

Sarah Harbison, General Counsel of the Pelican Institute, added, “The Slaughter-House Cases have had a constraining effect on economic freedom for nearly 150 years. It’s time to finally align the precedent with principles of individual liberty and economic opportunity protected by the Constitution.”

For more information on the petition or the Newell-Davis case, please contact Sarah Harbison at sarah@pelicaninstitute.org.