After a judge struck down Wisconsin’s ban over the summer, the same legal team behind that victory has announced a suit against a similar ban in New Jersey.
Earlier this year, New Jersey became the last remaining state in the U.S. to ban the sale of homemade baked goods without a license. The Garden State earned that distinction in May when a judge struck down a similar ban in Wisconsin, a ruling that was clarified in October to let all Wisconsinites know they could start selling baked goods immediately. Now, Institute for Justice, the same legal team behind the successful Wisconsin lawsuit, is announcing a similar lawsuit against the New Jersey Department of Health during a rally and press conference being held at the Union County Courthouse this morning – with both New Jersey bakers and Institute for Justice hoping for repeat victory.
“Wisconsin had almost the identical ban, and the state was unable to justify it on safety grounds,” Erica Smith, the lead attorney on the case, told us via email. “All the evidence in the case showed that there was no report of anyone, anywhere, ever becoming sick from an improperly baked good. Instead, the ban only served to protect commercial bakers from competition. We are confident that the New Jersey courts will come to the same conclusion.”
According to Institute for Justice, the battle for home bakers in New Jersey has been going on since 2009 with bills seeking to end the ban even getting passed by the State Assembly with bipartisan support; however, both times, these bills were held up in the Senate Health, Human and Senior Citizens Services Committee by committee chairman, Sen. Joe Vitale. “New Jersey’s ban is about politics and economic protectionism—period,” argued Smith. “Senator Vitale has prevented them from getting a vote in the Senate. He has admitted that he wants to protect commercial bakers from competition.”
The hope now is that by taking bakers’ fight to the courts instead of to the state government, a judge will make a similar ruling as the one made in Wisconsin, deciding that New Jersey’s ban isn’t intended to legitimately protect the public, but instead to protect commercial bakeries from competition. Still, though Smith is confident of their case, determining if and when a decision will be reached can be tricky. “We are hoping we can get a decision in the next year, but litigation can be difficult to predict,” she told us.
But seeing as 49 other states have fallen in line with the idea of allowing the sale of homemade baked goods, let’s assume this lawsuit is successful, then what? Smith says the battle for the rights of home bakers isn’t through. “The next frontier is states that have arbitrary restrictions on the sale of homemade goods,” she explains. “For instance, Maryland and D.C. only allow sales at farmers’ markets. This doesn’t make sense and puts a tremendous burden on home bakers who want to do custom orders and deliveries. We are optimistic that Maryland and D.C. will change their laws.”