Casket Royale, Inc. v. Mississippi, No. CIV.A. 3:99CV00737BN.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Mississippi
Writing for the CourtBarbour
Citation124 F.Supp.2d 434
PartiesCASKET ROYALE, INC. Plaintiff v. State of MISSISSIPPI; Mississippi State Board of Funeral Service; Dolores Kenney, in her official capacity as Executive Director of the Board; and Guy Roberts, Jr., James Miller, Charles Stephens, A. Wendell Stringer, Eddie Robinson, Jr., Nina Welch, and George Gulley, in their official capacities as Members of the Board Defendants
Docket NumberNo. CIV.A. 3:99CV00737BN.
Decision Date31 October 2000
124 F.Supp.2d 434
CASKET ROYALE, INC. Plaintiff
v.
State of MISSISSIPPI; Mississippi State Board of Funeral Service; Dolores Kenney, in her official capacity as Executive Director of the Board; and Guy Roberts, Jr., James Miller, Charles Stephens, A. Wendell Stringer, Eddie Robinson, Jr., Nina Welch, and George Gulley, in their official capacities as Members of the Board Defendants
No. CIV.A. 3:99CV00737BN.
United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Jackson Division.
October 31, 2000.

Page 435

Lawrence E. Allison, Jr., Steven J. Allen, Brunini, Grantham, Grower & Hewes, Jackson, MS, for Plaintiff.

Eugene Carroll Stone, III, David B. Miller, Office of the Attorney General, Jackson, MS, for Defendants.

Page 436

OPINION AND ORDER

BARBOUR, District Judge.


This cause is before the Court on the Cross Motions for Summary Judgment of Plaintiff and Defendants as well as the Motion to Dismiss of Defendants Mississippi State Board of Funeral Service and the State of Mississippi. Having considered the Motions, Responses, Rebuttals, and all attachments to each, as well as supporting and opposing authority, the Court finds that Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment is well taken and should be granted and Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is not well taken and should be denied. In addition, the Motion to Dismiss of Defendants Mississippi State Board of Funeral Service and the State of Mississippi is well taken and should be granted.

I. Factual Background and Procedural History

The Mississippi State Board of Funeral Service Licensing Law ("the funeral statutes"), Miss.Code Ann. §§ 73-11-41 through 73-11-63, and the Mississippi State Board of Funeral Service Rules and Regulations ("the funeral regulations"), forbid anyone but those holding a "license for the practice of funeral service" or a "license for the practice of funeral directing" to engage in the "sale of funeral merchandise," except the "pre-need sale of funeral merchandise...." Miss.Code Ann. §§ 73-11-41(d)-(f); 73-11-51(1) (1999).1 Consequently, it is a crime punishable by a fine of between $500 to $1,000, with the possibility of six months in prison, for anyone but a licensee to engage in the sale of funeral merchandise. Miss Code Ann. § 73-11-59 (1999).

Plaintiff Casket Royale is a New Hampshire casket manufacturer that neither employs a funeral director nor owns or operates a funeral home. However, Casket Royale and its dealers, including Ricky Dancy of Direct Casket Sales and Larry Methany of L & K Casket Sale, have received cease and desist letters from the Mississippi State Board of Funeral Service threatening to initiate prosecution if they do not discontinue the unlicensed sale of caskets. Thus, unless Casket Royale or its dealers obtain licenses for the practice of funeral service, and sell the caskets out of licensed funeral establishments,2 they cannot sell caskets in Mississippi that are manufactured by Casket Royale. Accordingly, Casket Royale has brought this suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claiming that the funeral statutes and the funeral regulations are violative of both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. In addition, Casket Royale also maintains that the licensing requirements violate the Privileges and Immunities Clause as well as the Interstate Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution. Casket Royale requests the following action of the Court: (1) a judgment declaring the funeral statutes and funeral regulations unconstitutional as applied to Casket Royale; (2) an order requiring Defendants to pay the attorneys' fees and costs incurred by Plaintiff in prosecuting this action; and (3) an injunction preventing Defendants from

Page 437

enforcing the funeral statutes and funeral regulations to prevent the unlicensed sale of caskets by Casket Royale.3 Both parties agree that there are no genuine issues of material fact and that the Court may decide the case on the motions for summary judgment. The Court agrees and so finds.

II. Analysis
A. Jurisdiction

Defendants first assert that this Court does not have jurisdiction over two of the Defendants in this matter as the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits suits against a state in federal court. Accordingly, it is Defendants' position that the State of Mississippi and the Mississippi State Board of Funeral Service are immune from suit in this instance. Casket Royale does not dispute this assertion.

Defendants are correct in that a state cannot be sued in federal court without its consent. Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 98, 104 S.Ct. 900, 79 L.Ed.2d 67 (1984). In addition, the Eleventh Amendment bar applies "regardless of the nature of the relief sought." Id. at 100, 104 S.Ct. 900 (citing Missouri v. Fiske, 290 U.S. 18, 27, 54 S.Ct. 18, 78 L.Ed. 145 (1933)). Therefore, the State of Mississippi and the Mississippi State Board of Funeral Service are entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity from this suit and are hereby dismissed with prejudice from this action.

However, as Defendants correctly note, the Eleventh Amendment does not prohibit suit against the executive director and the members of the Mississippi State Board of Funeral Service in their official capacities for injunctive relief. See Pennhurst, 465 U.S. at 102-03, 104 S.Ct. 900; Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123, 28 S.Ct. 441, 52 L.Ed. 714 (1908). Therefore, this suit may proceed against the members of the Board.

B. Substantive Due Process

Casket Royale first contends that the requirement that caskets be sold only by licensees violates its substantive due process rights as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. Indeed, under the Due Process Clause, there is a liberty interest in the right of an individual to pursue a chosen occupation. Conn v. Gabbert, 526 U.S. 286, 291-92, 119 S.Ct. 1292, 143 L.Ed.2d 399 (1999); Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390, 399, 43 S.Ct. 625, 67 L.Ed. 1042 (1923). While this right is subject to regulation by the State of Mississippi, any such regulation must be "rationally related to legitimate government interests." Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U.S. 702, 728, 117 S.Ct. 2258, 138 L.Ed.2d 772 (1997)(citing Heller v. Doe, 509 U.S. 312, 319-20, 113 S.Ct. 2637, 125 L.Ed.2d 257 (1993)).

Therefore, when an economic regulation is challenged as violative of substantive due process, a court must determine whether: (1) the regulation has a legitimate governmental purpose; and (2) there is a rational relationship between that purpose and the means chosen by the State to accomplish it. See id. at 728, 117 S.Ct. 2258; Exxon Corp. v. Governor of Md.,

Page 438

437 U.S. 117, 124-25, 98 S.Ct. 2207, 57 L.Ed.2d 91 (1978).

Defendants assert two purposes for the regulation. First, Defendants claim that the requirement contributes to the prompt disposition of human remains. Second, Defendants also maintain that the regulation provides consumer protection. Without need for further discussion, the Court finds both asserted purposes to be legitimate governmental interests. See Turner Broadcasting System v. FCC, 520 U.S. 180, 189-90, 117 S.Ct. 1174, 137 L.Ed.2d 369 (1997)(finding consumer protection to be a legitimate governmental interest); Schenck v. Pro-Choice Network of Western N.Y., 519 U.S. 357, 375-76, 117 S.Ct. 855, 137 L.Ed.2d 1 (1997)(finding health and safety to be a legitimate governmental interest); 44 Liquormart, Inc. v. Rhode Island, 517 U.S. 484, 502, 116 S.Ct. 1495, 134 L.Ed.2d 711 (1996)(consumer protection); Hodel v. Virginia Surface Mining & Reclamation Ass'n, 452 U.S. 264, 300, 101 S.Ct. 2352, 69 L.Ed.2d 1 (1981)(health and safety). Therefore, the issue before the Court is whether the licensing requirement in question, as applied to casket sales, is rationally related to furthering these interests.

1. The Prompt Disposition of Human Remains

Defendants argue that the requirement that caskets be sold only by licensees leads to the prompt disposal of human remains as it alleviates timing considerations and provides legal accountability for any failure to adhere to state guidelines regarding such disposition. As far as timing considerations, Defendants assert that time constraints become particularly important in cases where embalming or refrigeration cannot take place for religious or financial reasons, or as a matter of personal preference. Defendants also state that the restriction "alleviates potential delay occasioned by the ignorance or incompetence of an unlicensed seller or by the quality or remote physical location of his product." Memorandum Brief in Support of Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, at 7-8.

As for Defendants' first contention, where embalming or cremation cannot take place, Defendants have failed to show that the licensing requirement in any way speeds the process of burial. More...

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7 practice notes
  • Powers v. Harris, No. 03-6014.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • August 23, 2004
    ...and Equal Protection clauses); Craigmiles v. Giles, 110 F.Supp.2d 658 (E.D.Tenn.2000) (same); Casket Royale, Inc. v. Mississippi, 124 F.Supp.2d 434 (S.D.Miss.2000) (same in relation to Mississippi's casket statute). Plaintiffs' statement pushes the bounds of credulity, however, given Guardi......
  • Porter v. State, No. 2016AP1599
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • June 27, 2018
    ...group 913 N.W.2d 859from economic competition is not a legitimate governmental purpose"); Casket Royale, Inc. v. Mississippi, 124 F.Supp.2d 434, 436-37 (S.D. Miss. 2000) ; Santos v. City of Houston, 852 F.Supp. 601, 607-08 (S.D. Tex. 1994) ("[A] statute based on pure favoritism wh......
  • ST. JOSEPH ABBEY v. CASTILLE, CIVIL ACTION NO. 10-2717
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Louisiana)
    • April 8, 2011
    ...relationship between that purpose and the means chosen by the State to accomplish it. Casket Royale, Inc. v. State of Mississippi, 124 F. Supp. 2d 434, 437 (S.D. Miss. 2000)(Barbour, J) (funeral statutes and regulations prohibiting sale of caskets without licenses violated due process and e......
  • Abbey v. Castille, Civil Action No. 10–2717.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Louisiana)
    • July 21, 2011
    ...relationship between that purpose and the means chosen by the State to accomplish it. Casket Royale, Inc. v. State of Mississippi, 124 F.Supp.2d 434, 437 (S.D.Miss.2000) (Barbour, J.) (funeral statutes and regulations prohibiting sale of caskets without licenses violated due process and equ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
7 cases
  • Powers v. Harris, No. 03-6014.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • August 23, 2004
    ...and Equal Protection clauses); Craigmiles v. Giles, 110 F.Supp.2d 658 (E.D.Tenn.2000) (same); Casket Royale, Inc. v. Mississippi, 124 F.Supp.2d 434 (S.D.Miss.2000) (same in relation to Mississippi's casket statute). Plaintiffs' statement pushes the bounds of credulity, however, given Guardi......
  • Porter v. State, No. 2016AP1599
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • June 27, 2018
    ...group 913 N.W.2d 859from economic competition is not a legitimate governmental purpose"); Casket Royale, Inc. v. Mississippi, 124 F.Supp.2d 434, 436-37 (S.D. Miss. 2000) ; Santos v. City of Houston, 852 F.Supp. 601, 607-08 (S.D. Tex. 1994) ("[A] statute based on pure favoritism wh......
  • ST. JOSEPH ABBEY v. CASTILLE, CIVIL ACTION NO. 10-2717
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Louisiana)
    • April 8, 2011
    ...relationship between that purpose and the means chosen by the State to accomplish it. Casket Royale, Inc. v. State of Mississippi, 124 F. Supp. 2d 434, 437 (S.D. Miss. 2000)(Barbour, J) (funeral statutes and regulations prohibiting sale of caskets without licenses violated due process and e......
  • Abbey v. Castille, Civil Action No. 10–2717.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Louisiana)
    • July 21, 2011
    ...relationship between that purpose and the means chosen by the State to accomplish it. Casket Royale, Inc. v. State of Mississippi, 124 F.Supp.2d 434, 437 (S.D.Miss.2000) (Barbour, J.) (funeral statutes and regulations prohibiting sale of caskets without licenses violated due process and equ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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