Brief filed: 05/18/2021
Gurrola v. Duncan
9th Circuit Court of Appeals; Case No. 21-15414
Decision below 2021 WL 492437 (E.D.Cal. Feb 10, 2021)
State licensing schemes that categorically bar individuals with prior criminal convictions from holding various professions are irrational. Across the country, these licensing schemes cover almost every profession imaginable. However, these regulations frequently do nothing other than bar those with criminal records from entering a profession. These regulations prevent those with felony convictions from, among other things, operating a taxicab, performing marriages, and working as a tag officer at a state department of motor vehicles. This is true regardless of whether the individual has been convicted of a major fraud, a violent crime, or something as minor as felony littering. States regularly impose criminal-history restrictions on occupational licenses that are entirely unrelated to the applicant’s fitness to be a contributing member to the profession. And these restrictions—which bar individuals with prior convictions from finding gainful employment—contribute to recidivism, further underscoring their irrationality. Although courts have held that these licensing schemes are subject to only rational basis review, rational basis is not a toothless standard; it requires that a court find some logical relationship between the restriction—here, two felony convictions—and the occupation being regulated—here, emergency medical technicians (“EMTs”). Courts historically have been critical of, and have struck down under this test, broad regulatory schemes that bar membership of an applicant who has any felony conviction. Because California’s regulatory scheme bars individuals convicted of any two felonies without regard for whether the crimes at issue implicate the applicant’s fitness to become an EMT, including to fight fires, this scheme likewise fails rational basis review. As a result, this Court should vacate the district court’s order granting the defendants’ motion to dismiss and remand this case for further proceedings.
Jessica Ring Amunson and Caroline C. Cease, Jenner & Block LLP, Washington, DC.