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First Amendment

Tour-guide exam requirement is struck down by DC Circuit

Posted Jun 30, 2014 8:05 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A federal appeals court has struck down licensing requirements for tour guides in Washington, D.C., as a violation of the First Amendment.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturned regulations that required tour guides to pass a 100-question, multiple-choice exam covering 14 categories, report Legal Times (sub. req.) and the Wall Street Journal Law Blog. Application, license and exam fees totaled $200.

The appeals court said the record was “wholly devoid of evidence” showing how the government’s interest in promoting the tourism industry justified substantial burdens on tour guides’ speech.

“What evidence suggests market forces are an inadequate defense to seedy, slothful tour guides?” the court asked. “One need only peruse [websites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor] to sample the expressed outrage and contempt that would likely befall a less than scrupulous tour guide.”

The decision is at odds with a ruling by another federal appeals court, the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In a footnote, the D.C. Circuit said that opinion “either did not discuss, or gave cursory treatment to, significant legal issues.”

Robert McNamara, a senior lawyer with the Institute for Justice, represented the Segway tour company that challenged the Washington, D.C., regulations. The ruling “is a massive victory for the right to speak for a living,” McNamara told Legal Times.

Hat tip to How Appealing.

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