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Some states have ordered auctioneers “non-essential” in light of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and thus have implied (if not expressed) that auctioneers cannot work as auctioneers until this order is lifted.

Many auctioneers continue to argue that such a limitation is unconstitutional; that they cannot be denied their individual right of life, liberty … or to make a living and typically cite the 14th Amendment and specifically Section 1:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

In an earlier post, we cited Gibbons v. Ogden, 22 U.S. 1 (1824) noting that the Supreme Court of the United States held that states had the right to quarantine and enact other health-related laws. https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2020/03/19/so-youre-still-having-live-auctions-despite-a-pandemic/.

Additionally, the Supreme Court of the United States more recently commented about individual liberties as contrasted with the greater health in Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11 (1905) where the Court noted the following:

The liberty secured by the Constitution of the United States does not import an absolute right in each person to be at all times, and in all circumstances, wholly freed from restraint, nor is it an element in such liberty that one person, or a minority of persons residing in any community and enjoying the benefits of its local government, should have power to dominate the majority when supported in their action by the authority of the State.

The Court went on to say specifically:

… in every well-ordered society … the rights of the individual in respect of his liberty may at times, under the pressure of great dangers, be subjected to such restraint, to be enforced by reasonable regulations, as the safety of the general public may demand.

In other words, an auctioneer’s individual right to work could be reasonably limited for the safety of the general public. Like most everyone, you might wonder what “reasonable” means and it’s often dependent upon the nature, purpose, and circumstances of each case, and usually not capricious nor arbitrary as applied.

You as an auctioneer being out of work probably seems unreasonable to you, but the general welfare of society can’t be unreasonably harmed either. As we’ve noted, the courts have agreed your rights can be reasonably restricted in order to benefit society as a whole.

Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, CAS, AARE has been an auctioneer and certified appraiser for over 30 years. His company’s auctions are located at: Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, RES Auction Services and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. He serves as Distinguished Faculty at Hondros College, Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School, an Instructor at the National Auctioneers Association’s Designation Academy and America’s Auction Academy. He is faculty at the Certified Auctioneers Institute held at Indiana University and is approved by the The Supreme Court of Ohio for attorney education.