Do Rabbi Searches Violate U.S. Law?

Last October, after participating on a Rabbinic search committee for his congregation, law professor Barak Richman questioned whether Rabbinic searches, specifically those involving the Rabbinic Assembly (RA), were legal:

… as a law professor focusing on antitrust law, I was fascinated to find an unexposed island of unequivocal antitrust violations.

A rabbi who does not follow the process in lockstep and is excluded by the RA finds his or her professional livelihood in jeopardy. This enables the RA to exert complete control over the rabbinic search process, and independent-minded congregations are prevented from freely pursuing their individual needs. The RA’s centralization of power and suppression of challenges are precisely the sort of entrenched dominance that the Sherman Act is designed to remedy.

According to Tablet Magazine‘s Allison Hoffman, tomorrow Richman will be presenting a paper at Loyola University’s annual colloquium on antitrust law titled Saving the First Amendment from Itself: Relief from the Sherman Act Against the Rabbinic Cartels:

America’s rabbis currently structure their employment market with rules that flagrantly violate the Sherman Act. The consequences of these rules, in addition to the predictable economic outcomes of inflated wages for rabbis and restricted consumer freedoms for the congregations that employ them, meaningfully hinder Jewish communities from seeking their preferred spiritual leader. Although the First Amendment cannot combat against this privately-orchestrated (yet paradigmatic) restriction on religious expression, the Sherman Act can. Ironically, however, the rabbinic organizations implementing the restrictive policies claim that the First Amendment immunizes them from Sherman Act scrutiny, thereby claiming the First Amendment empowers them to do what the First Amendment was arguably designed to prevent. This essay evaluates this interesting intersection between the Sherman Act and the First Amendment, and it argues that the Sherman Act can, and must, be vigorously applied against the private rabbinic cartels.

The complete paper, Saving the First Amendment from Itself: Relief from the Sherman Act Against the Rabbinic Cartels, is available for download.

Hoffman’s in-depth article, Supply and Demands, can be found here.

Richman’s opinion piece, Rabbi Searches Are Tough, but Are They Illegal?, is here.