US judge upholds ‘need review’ for child care service

March 22, 2022 GMT

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A lawsuit filed by a woman claiming a Louisiana regulation unconstitutionally blocked her from running a business providing needed care and educational services to disabled children was dismissed Tuesday by a federal judge.

The suit, filed last year, said Ursula Newell-Davis wanted to run a business providing “respite” services to disabled or challenged children whose parents can’t be with them around the clock.

Davis’s suit challenged a requirement that she go through a “Facility Need Review” to prove that the business was needed in her area before she could get a license to operate. The lawsuit said the requirement was a legal hurdle designed to protect existing care providers from competition.

U.S. District Judge Nannette Jolivette Brown in New Orleans rejected the suit’s arguments in a 30-page ruling.

Among her reasons, Brown found that the Facility Need Review rule appeared to serve the public interest by making sure the state focuses regulatory resources where they are needed. She said arguments in the lawsuit that the Facility Need Review drives up the cost of care while reducing access weren’t supported. The judge also said that if a more effective way of meeting the state’s regulatory goals can be found, “that is an issue for the legislature, not this Court, to rectify.”

The suit was filed on Newell-Davis’ behalf by the Pacific Legal Foundation and the Louisiana-based Pelican Institute for Public Policy.

A Pacific Legal Foundation attorney said an appeal is planned.

“We’re disappointed that because of excessive deference to the legislature, courts often turn a blind eye to injustices, like the one perpetuated against Ursula in Louisiana,” Anastasia Boden, said in an emailed statement from the foundation. “Everyone has a constitutional right to enter an occupation on fair terms, including providing care to special needs families.”