Connecticut Interior Design

Susan Roberts v. Jerry Farrell
Challenging Connecticut's Licensing of Speech For Interior Designers

Susan Roberts is an interior designer, but the state of Connecticut will not allow her to tell anyone that.  This is because Connecticut has a law that allows anyone to perform interior design services, but dictates that only those with government-issued licenses may call themselves “interior designers.”  Besides unconstitutionally censoring truthful commercial speech, “titling laws” like Connecticut’s serve as precursors to full-blown occupational licensure, which is the ultimate goal of a small faction within the interior design industry led by the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID).  

IJ client Susan Roberts.

In November 2007, the Institute for Justice (IJ) released an updated case study, Designing Cartels, which documents a long-running campaign by ASID and its affiliates to increase regulation of interior designers in order to thwart competition and impose a one-size-fits-all set of credentials for the entire interior design industry.  Not surprisingly, the nationwide push for more regulation of interior designers has come not from the public or the government, but from a small cartel of industry insiders seeking government protection from competition.
Only three other states besides Connecticut license the use of the term “interior designer” without regulating the work itself.  The anti-competitive intent behind such title acts is clear:  anyone who goes looking for an “interior designer” on the Internet or in the Yellow Pages in those states will find only government-licensed cartel members, while overlooking scores of capable designers like Susan Roberts.

On September 9, 2008, the Institute for Justice, a national public interest law firm that defends free speech and the rights of entrepreneurs, filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut in Hartford on behalf of three entrepreneurs challenging Connecticut’s “titling” law as a violation of free speech rights protected by the First Amendment.

Americans’ right to freely express themselves certainly includes the right to provide truthful information to potential customers and clients.  That right, enshrined in the First Amendment, cannot simply be brushed aside by states seeking to promote the anti-competitive interests of the interior design cartel.  After an usuccessful attempt to defend the law, the Department of Consumer Protection tried to moot the case by asking the legislature to amend the law to eliminate the constitutional defect.  But it was too late—the legislative session ended in June with no change to the interior design law, and on June 30, 2009, federal district judge Mark Kravitz issued a decision declaring the law unconstitutional under the First Amendment.  As a result, not only our clients but all interior designers in Connecticut are finally free to use the terms that more accurate describe the services they provide.


Essential Background


Backgrounder: Challenging Connecticut’s Licensing of Speech
For Interior Designers

Client Photo

Client Video - none available

Latest Release: Federal Judge Declares Connecticut Interior Design Law Unconstitutional (June 30, 2009)

Legal Briefs and Decisions

Download: Memorandum of Decision

Launch Release: Interior Design Freedom Month Kicks Off With Lawsuit Challenging Connecticut Interior Design Title Law; Institute for Justice and Interior Design Protection Council Join Forces to Battle Interior Design Cartel (September 9, 2008)


Case Timeline

Filed Lawsuit: 


September 9, 2008

Court Filed:


U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut



none available

Next Key Date:




Additional Releases

Maps, Charts and Facts

Release:CT Interior Design Law on Trial (June 4, 2009)

Designing Cartels: How Industry Insiders Cut Out Competition


Op-eds, News Articles and Links

Article: IJ Scores Victory Against Interior Design Cartel; Liberty & Law (August 2009)

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