June 23, 2024

The Nerve Archive

Where Government Gets Exposed

Citizen to Agency: I’m Prepared to Take This to Court

business license


Readers may recall John Dalen, the contractor and Westminster resident who refuses to purchase a business license on the grounds that running one’s business is a protected right, not a privilege to be paid for. Dalen’s case strikes us as logical. Imprudent, possibly, but principled and logical.

If his case were to be tried in court, we have no idea what would happen, but the implications are potentially far-reaching. And so we were interested to receive his latest update, reprinted below.

I thought I would update readers on my adventures with local and state authorities who feel I should have to pay a fee in order to exercise a constitutionally guaranteed right – the right to own and run my own business.

You’ll remember I defeated the City of Clemson’s attempt to fine me $500 for not having a business license.

Then I had a dispute with the state LLR over whether I was required to obtain a professional license in order to engage in the trade of contracting – painting, carpentry, etc. Through a letter, I informed LLR officials that they had no jurisdiction in the matter as I was engaging in a clearly protected constitutional right. They held a hearing on June 15 of this year. I attended, and I demanded they state for the record what authority or jurisdiction they were claiming to have in order to prosecute this case. When they failed to provide a proper response, I informed them that I would not participate in their unlawful hearing, and I left the building.

I obtained the transcript of the hearing, and I believe it proves my case. The Board and the LLR attorneys are shown to be ignorant of the law they are attempting to enforce. The statute clearly states jurisdiction extends only to “licensed contractors.”

When you apply for a license, you are exchanging your constitutional right to engage in a lawful trade or business for a privilege, thus submitting yourself to the jurisdiction of the LLR. Without the license, you are free to pursue any lawful trade or business; so says the U.S. Supreme Court. A careful reading of the state licensing statute affirms this. Nevertheless, at the end of my hearing, according to the transcript, the licensing board – without any jurisdiction or authority – decided to fine me $500. To date, I have received no notice of any fine having been assessed against me, and I have had no further contact with the LLR.

I recently sent Gov. Haley a letter, copied to LLR. I informed her that both she and LLR officials involved in this dispute will be named in a lawsuit for any damages that I may suffer as a result of their unlawful actions. Violations of citizens’ constitutional rights under color of law where no lawful authority exists are actionable, and government employees can be held personally liable for actions taken that are outside the scope of their authority.

As of this writing, I have paid no fines, and continue to engage in the lawful conduct of my business. Although I would prefer not to sue anyone, I am fully prepared to defend my rights in a court of law.

For more on licensing laws – and in particular how elected officials can use licensure to  protect their own businesses from competition – click here.

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The Nerve