Wine and the Nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court
How interesting that the Granholm v. Heald Supreme Court decision of 2005 will play a small role in the confirmation process of Justice Sonia Sotomayor to Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.
At this point it appears the decision will play only a small role. But here are the details.
In 2004 Justice Sotomayor was part of a three judge panel of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals that found New York's discriminatory posture toward out-of-state wine shippers to be constitutional in the case of Swedenburg v. Kelly. This case was eventually appealed and joined to a similar case out of Michigan and heard before the U.S. Supreme Court. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court overruled the Sotomayor panel stating that New York's form of blatant discrimination against out-of-state wine shippers violated the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Clint Bollock, formerly with the Institute For Justice and who was arguing on behalf of wine lovers in the Swedenburg case, has written an article claiming that though Sotomayor's position on the issue was bad for wine lovers, it is nonetheless and example "of a restrained judicial impulse".
Bollock does not elaborate, but it's notable that this decision will be used in other venues to bolster Justice Sotomayor's credentials as a moderate.
Setting aside the Constitutional issues, it's interesting to note that support for discriminatory policies gives indication of one's "moderate" political tendencies. This sounds right to me. After all, if you look at those characters who, in the past, have lobbied and worked for more free trade in wine, you'll see they were often branded as "radicals" looking to upset a decades old apple cart claimed to have served us just fine.
Constitutionally, Sotomayor's Swedenburg decision can be seen as an example of giving deference to the states over the federal government, federalism over statism. In the ultimate Granholm case, the issue came down to balancing the meaning of the Commerce Clause's requirement that the federal government controls interstate commerce and the 21st Amendment that gave the states the right to regulate the sale and distribution of alcohol. Judge Sotomayor sided with the 21st Amendment and the states.
From where I sit, I'd argue that the Swedenburg case demonstrates, perhaps, an anti-free trade bias on the Justice's part. Her decision in Swedenburg curtailed free trade, helped keep trade barriers in place, and favored a narrow understanding of the Founders desire to see interstate commerce uninterrupted by state-imposed roadblocks.
It will be interesting to see if the Swedenburg case comes up in the confirmation hearings and how it might be used. If nothing else, the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor gives the direct shipping issue a small push into the sunlight again.