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Appeals Court Says Salon Owner Can Challenge Arizona Rules Stopping Spa Fish Therapy

November 5, 2014

PHOENIX — The Arizona Court of Appeals ruled today the Goldwater Institute can challenge the actions of the State Board of Cosmetology to shut down a time-tested spa fish therapy that had been offered by nail salon owner Cindy Vong.

“Cindy Vong will get her day in court, and so will a government bureaucracy that has recklessly disrupted this business owner’s right to earn a living in a profession that offers no harm to the public,” said Clint Bolick, the Goldwater Institute’s litigation director.

The Court of Appeals decided that the legislature did give the cosmetology board power to regulate spa fish treatments, but that the trial court should not have dismissed Cindy Vong’s constitutional claims.

In 2008, Mrs. Vong started offering a service at her Gilbert salon that’s popular in Asia and available in some other states. The therapy uses tiny, toothless carp to remove dead skin from customers’ feet. Customers came from several states and described the experience as fun and relaxing. The state cosmetology board objected to the practice and ordered Mrs. Vong to stop providing it in 2009, even though the agency had adopted no rules related to fish therapy and had not documented any likely health threats to customers.

When the Board of Cosmetology threatened to charge Mrs. Vong with a misdemeanor crime, she agreed to stop the practice and waive an administrative appeal process so she could go straight to court on constitutional grounds.

A trial court opinion said Mrs. Vong’s waiver also meant she gave up her option of filing a lawsuit, but the appeals court overruled that today.

The lawsuit now returns to the trial court to consider Mrs. Vong’s right to offer spa fish therapy, unless the cosmetology board seeks a review by the Arizona Supreme Court.

The Goldwater Institute’s Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation will continue to represent Mrs. Vong as she pursues her constitutional right to earn a living.

Read more about this and other Goldwater lawsuits to protect individual rights and keep government within its constitutional limits at The Goldwater Institute is an independent government watchdog whose work is made possible by the generosity of its supporters.



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