Supreme Court, Wine, Direct Shipping-2

Well, the Great Wine Case has been argued before the U.S. Supreme Court. I’ve been waiting for this day for many years. It’s frustrating because it is very difficult at this hour to get much information on how the arguments went and what the reaction of the justices were. However, some reports have been filed. To this point we can report the following:

-Clint bloc’s, an attorney from D.C representing those challenging the laws made the case that the laws represented economic protectionism and were unconstitutional because they affected interstate commerce.

The states argued that they could not assure minors did not get alcohol from out-of-state wineries and that the state could not obtain the tax revenue that they had the right to from out of state wineries so the only choice they have is to ban out of state shipments

-Kathleen Sullivan, from Stanford and arguing against the bans noted that states could require out-of-state wineries to get permits and to pay taxes. Justice Souter, seemingly helping to bolster this argument suggested that the Internet could even make it easier for states to get their taxes since wineries could keep their financial records online and accessible to state regulators.

-Justice Sandra Day O’Conner suggested that states could require that wineries purchase licenses that would give the states jurisdiction over them.

Justice Scalia, reacting most likely to some state requirements that wineries must have a physical presence (an office or warehouse for example) in state, asked how such a presence would stop children from getting alcohol. One must assume this is a rhetorical question.

-The Justices appeared skeptical that the State’s discriminatory treatment of out-of-state wineries was either justified or supported by case law. Apparently Justice Kennedy told Thomas Casey, Michigan’s Solicitor General and one of those arguing in defense of the anti-direct shipping laws: “You have a very substantial burden to show that this discrimination … is justified.” Justice Bryer apparently followed up that statement to Casey with notice that if there was case law supporting the constitutionality of discriminating against out of state wineries “now is the time to point (those cases) out.”

The crux of the issue is whether or not the states can justify their discriminatory statutes by claiming 1) they are reactions to concerns over temperance, tax collection and creating an orderly market in alcohol sales and 2) that their is not other scheme to accomplish such goals that is not discriminatory

More thoughts as they come in…

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