Oklahoma Caskets

Institute for Justice Challenges Oklahoma’s Government-Created Casket-Selling Cartel
Powers v. Harris

From left, Clark Neily, IJ staff attorney, Kim Powers, president & CEO Memorial Concepts Online, Inc.; William Mellor, IJ president and general counsel; Dennis Bridges, co-owner Memorial Concepts Online, Inc.; and Andrew Lester, an attorney with Lester, Loving & Davies, gather in Oklahoma City to announce the launch of a lawsuit to break up Oklahoma’s government-imposed casket cartel.

In the spring of 2001, Kim Powers, of Ponca City, Oklahoma, and Dennis Bridges, of Knoxville, Tennessee, launched Memorial Concepts Online (www.memorial conceptsonline.com), a company that provides high-quality caskets to consumers across the nation at a discount price.  But Oklahoma is one of a half-dozen states that shuts out potential competitors by requiring anyone who sells caskets and other funeral-related merchandise to be a licensed funeral director, even if the retailer, like Powers and Bridges, performs no funeral services of any kind. 

Obtaining an Oklahoma funeral director’s license requires several years of full-time college course work, a one-year apprenticeship including the embalming of 25 bodies, and two exams.  Supposedly enacted to protect vulnerable consumers, the true purpose and effect of such laws is to create a cartel in the funeral merchandise market for the benefit of licensed funeral directors.  By limiting competition, funeral directors are able to greatly overcharge consumers. 

Represented by the Institute for Justice, Powers and Bridges filed a federal lawsuit challenging Oklahoma’s government-imposed casket-selling cartel aiming to strike the law down and protect the right of individuals to earn an honest living in the profession of their choice without having to seek government approval.

Essential Background


Backgrounder: Requiem for a Cartel; Challenging Oklahoma’s Casket Monopoly

Client Photo

Client Video - none available

Latest Release: U.S. Supreme Court Denies Case Examining Constitutionality of Economic Protectionism (March 21, 2005)

Legal Briefs and Decisions

Launch Release: Institute for Justice Files Federal Lawsuit Challenging Oklahoma Casket Licensing Law (March 14, 2001)

IJ's Petition For A Writ Of Certiorari (November 22, 2004)

Respondent's Brief in Opposition to IJ's Cert Petition (February 9, 2005)

IJ's Reply to Oppostion to Cert Petition (February 15, 2005)

Pacific Legal Foundation amicus brief (December 28, 2004)

Funeral Consumers Alliance amicus brief (December 23, 2004)

Decision: Read the Tenth Circuit Decision in this case (August 24, 2004)

Federal Trade Commission amicus brief filed in the District Court (June 20, 2003)

Decision: View Judge Stephen P. Friot's Decision (December 12, 2002)

Case Timeline

Filed Lawsuit:


March 14, 2001

Court Filed:


U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma



December 12, 2002: U.S. District Judge Stephen P. Friot upheld Oklahoma’s licensing scheme

August 23, 2004: 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholds Oklahoma’s licensing scheme, finding that states may pass occupational licensing laws whose sole purpose is to benefit special interests by protecting them from competition.

March 21, 2005: U.S. Supreme Court declines review of case.

Current Court:


U.S. Supreme Court



November 22, 2004: Filed appeal (cert petition) with U.S. Supreme Court.

February 9, 2005: Oklahoma files opposition brief.

February 15, 2005: Institute for Justice files reply brief.

Next Key Date:


Case concluded

Additional Releases

Maps, Charts and Facts

Release: Court Cases Ask: Is America Still the Land of Opportunity? Federal Courts Protect Cartels, Uphold Arbitrary Licensing Requirements, Stifle Entrepreneurial Opportunity (March 15, 2005)

Map: Casket Retail Licensing Laws

Release: March 18: U.S. Supreme Court Considers Accepting Case Examining Constitutionality of Good-Old-Boy Networks (March 8, 2005)

Release: Outrageous Federal Court Decision Appealed to U.S. Supreme Court (December 21, 2004)

Release: Federal Appeals Court Approves Naked Economic Protectionism (August 24, 2004)

Release: Federal Court Hears Oral Argument Today In Oklahoma Casket Licensing Law Case (November 18, 2002)

Release: Federal Trade Commission Says Oklahoma Casket Monopoly Out of Step with Federal Regulations (September 12, 2002)


Release: Federal Court Denies State of Oklahoma’s Motion to Dismiss Lawsuit Challenging Casket Licensing Law (February 13, 2002)

Op-eds, News Articles and Links

Article: Litigation Update: Oklahoma Caskets; Liberty & Law (March 2002)

Article: IJ Takes on Oklahoma Casket Cartel; Liberty & Law (May 2001)

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