Lending A Helping HANd

 

Human Action Network (HAN) member Ed Martin joined with IJ to champion economic liberty on behalf of a Missouri funeral consumer advocate.

Lending A Helping HANd

By Shaka Mitchell

The Institute for Justice recently scored yet another victory for entrepreneurs and consumers, this time in Missouri. The victory there belonged not only to IJ, but also to a special member of our Human Action Network (HAN)—IJ’s grassroots association of individuals who have graduated from the Institute’s public interest training programs and who stay connected to the Institute for Justice as volunteers when cases arise in their city, state or area of interest.

In a consent judgment issued in May, the State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors agreed that retail casket sellers could sell caskets without a funeral director’s license. At issue in this case was whether Larry Gegner—a consumer advocate from Buffalo, Mo., who has spent the better part of his life selling caskets and teaching consumers about the often-inflated costs associated with burials—could share his knowledge.

Larry’s argument was straightforward: people should have the right to teach and learn about something so important as how to bury a family member without getting ripped off by the funeral cartel. A complicating factor for IJ, however, was Larry’s remote location where the litigation would proceed: about three hours southwest of St. Louis in the central part of the state.

Enter Human Action Network member Ed Martin from St. Louis.
Attorneys connected with the Institute for Justice usually learn about our work either by attending IJ’s annual law student conference or by clerking at our office. Dedicated advocates for liberty like Ed Martin do both. Ed attended our 2001 Law Student Conference while clerking for the Institute, and then provided invaluable assistance when the time came to represent Larry Gegner.

When Ed and IJ Staff Attorney Valerie Bayham visited the Gegners to learn more, both attorneys soon recognized this was a case for IJ. Ed noted, “What became clear was that Larry had done his homework—learning about the costs of caskets and funerals—and wanted to share that information with his fellow citizens. There is no way the government should stand in the way of those who are merely trying to convey truthful information.”

Likewise, HAN members have information they want to share to advance freedom. Whether assisting in client interviews, case filings or amicus briefs, attorneys in the Human Action Network use their legal skills to promote liberty nationwide.

Lawyers often belong to professional associations that show few results. One need look no further than Larry Gegner in Buffalo, Mo., to see how IJ’s Human Action Network continues to bear fruit year after year. So, as hundreds of Missourians reap the reward of Larry’s labor, we say “thank you” to Ed Martin and the hundreds of HAN members that labor on behalf of liberty.

Shaka Mitchell is IJ’s outreach coordinator.

 

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