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FCA Files Brief with Supreme Court

   Funeral Consumers Alliance
a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation
celebrating 41 years of protecting a consumer’s right
to choose a meaningful, dignified, and affordable funeral

January 4, 2005
Contact: Joshua Slocum, Executive Director
Tel. 800-765-0107
Consumer Group Files Brief in Casket Monopoly Case

South Burlington, VT. – Funeral Consumers Alliance, the nation’s oldest and largest funeral watchdog group, has filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the United States Supreme Court in support of a challenge to an Oklahoma law that gives funeral directors the sole right to sell caskets. FCA hopes the High Court will hear this case and rule that the law is invalid, which would overturn similar laws in many states around the nation.

“Oklahoma’s law banning casket sales by anyone but funeral directors is a transparently protectionist piece of legislation designed to insulate funeral directors from any real competition,” said Joshua Slocum, FCA Executive Director. “It has shut down choices for consumers and forced grieving families to pay the often outrageous markups funeral homes slap on caskets. It’s high time funeral directors were forced to compete in the open market instead of being coddled by monopolistic laws that harm consumers.”

On August 23rd, 2004, a three-judge panel for the 10th Circuit of the Federal Court of Appeals upheld the state’s ban on the sale of caskets by anyone but licensed funeral directors. The Federal Trade Commission had filed an amicus brief criticizing the law, and the Court’s opinion noted that the law “may extract a needless, wasteful requirement in many cases.” But the Court said changing the law is up to the legislature, not the judiciary.

This ruling is in direct contrast to a 2002 decision by the 6th Circuit of the Federal Court of Appeals. That decision upheld an earlier ruling that overturned a similar casket sales ban in Tennessee. In its decision, the Court noted that Tennessee’s justifications for the ban “come close to striking us with ‘the force of a five-week-old, unrefrigerated dead fish.'”

The Institute for Justice , the Washington, D.C.-based law firm that successfully litigated the case in Tennessee, has asked the Supreme Court to overturn the 10th Circuit’s decision upholding Oklahoma’s law. FCA hopes the High Court will hear this case and finally put an end to the indefensible use of state laws to boost funeral home profits at the expense of American families. For more information or interviews, contact FCA Executive Director Joshua Slocum at 802-865-8300.

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