The US Supreme Court has been asked to hear a case involving a Florida health coach giving dietary advice


A woman who ran a health and nutrition coaching business on Thursday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold a First Amendment challenge to a Florida law that barred her from providing dietary advice to clients.

Heather Kokesch Del Castillo, a resident of Northwest Florida, was cited by the state Department of Health in 2017 for being paid to provide dietary advice without being a registered dietitian or nutritionist.

It sparked a legal battle in which Del Castillo, represented by attorneys from the Institute for Justice’s national legal group, argued that Florida violated her right to speak. A federal district judge and the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the state, urging it to file a petition Thursday in the U.S. Supreme Court.

The petition said, in part, that the state’s restrictions were “full of holes and exceptions.”

“Heather’s advice would have been perfectly legal, for example, if she had been selling nutritional supplements instead of just selling advice and encouragement,” the petition states. “In other words, taking five dollars in compensation for telling someone ‘eating fewer carbs will help you lose weight’ is a crime, but telling that same person ‘you can lose weight if you eat less carbs and give me five bucks for that miraculous ‘pill’ is perfectly legal.

But in a February ruling, a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said “the licensing scheme for dietitians and nutritionists regulates professional conduct and does not weigh down the discourse of Del Castillo only incidentally. Because the burden on his free speech rights was only incidental, the law’s licensing scheme did not violate his First Amendment free speech rights.

The petition states that Del Castillo provided dietary advice while operating his business, Constitution Nutrition, in California. After her husband, a US Air Force airman, was transferred to Florida, she planned to continue the business.

But a registered dietitian complained to the Department of Health after seeing an ad in a magazine, the petition says. The department ordered Del Castillo to stop providing dietary counseling and pay $754 in fines and costs, which triggered the lawsuit.

In the U.S. Supreme Court petition, Del Castillo’s attorneys argued that the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling conflicts with appeals court rulings from other courts. regions of the country on how the First Amendment applies to licensing laws.

He pointed to an “incoherent mix of different rules governing when the government can regulate speech, including internet speech.”

“In Florida, Heather has no First Amendment right to communicate with her clients,” the petition reads. “If she goes home to California, it’s different. If it goes north into the Carolinas, it’s different. If it goes west of the Mississippi, it’s different. In a nation where communication services, including coaching and counseling, are increasingly provided across state lines, a patchwork precedent on a question as basic as “Does the First Amendment apply same ? ‘requests the intervention of this (Supreme) Court’.

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