Pennsylvania judges rule lawsuit over licensing rules can proceed

A three-judge panel of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania denied the state cosmetology board’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a pair of Philadelphia-area women who want to end what they say are unconstitutional licensing requirements.

The state board declined to issue licenses to Courtney Haveman and Amanda Spillane to allow them to work as estheticians – cosmetologists who focus on facial care.

The state agency cited the women’s previous legal problems, some of which date to 2005, in denying a license. The women, who spent more than $6,000 on tuition and completed more than 300 hours of cosmetology training, are challenging a stipulation requiring applicants to prove their “good moral character” before the state issues a license.

“Courtney and Amanda deserve a fresh start,” Andrew Ward, an attorney with the nonprofit Institute for Justice, which represented Haveman and Spillane, said in a news release.

“The Cosmetology Board argued that instead of going to court, they should have re-applied into the same system that treated them so badly the first time,” Ward added. “We are grateful that the court rejected that argument. And we’re looking forward to proving that this arbitrary requirement stands in the way of good careers for Courtney, Amanda and many other women in Pennsylvania.”

The state denied a license for Spillane in 2015 and Haveman in 2016. The pair filed their lawsuit in December 2018, arguing their past troubles had no bearing on their ability to work as cosmetologists.

“Right now, I work in a salon, but I’m not allowed to do the job I trained for,” Haveman said in a news release. “The Board can’t stop me from shampooing hair but can stop me from working as an esthetician. That doesn’t make sense. If I could get my license, I could make more money to provide for myself and my young son.”

In asking the court to dismiss the lawsuit, the state claimed, in part, the statute of limitations had expired. State officials also argued the complaint was untimely, saying it was tantamount to an appeal filed more than 30 days after the denials.

However, the judges found that Haveman and Spillane are seeking to “challenge only the constitutionality of the good moral character requirement.”

“As a result, Petitioners argue that the Petition is not a veiled appeal of their license denials but is intended only to remove an unconstitutional requirement from the licensure process,” the judges wrote in their opinion.

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