The State of Michigan and Their Wine Wholesalers Pursue Optimism in the Courts

In a move representing extraordinary optimism, the state of Michigan yesterday announced it would appeal a Federal District Court decision from last fall that ruled unconstitutional that state’s ban on wine shipments from out-of-state retailers.

The case, Lebamoff v Snyder, is being appealed to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. This is the same Federal Appeals Court that ruled Tennessee’s residency requirement unconstitutional based on the holding that the 2005 Granholm Supreme Court decision barring states from passing laws that discriminate against out-of-state economic entities. The Tennessee residency case was appealed to the Supreme Court and recently upheld on the same grounds. The Federal Court in Michigan used the same reasoning when it overturned Michigan’s ban on retailer shipping saying Granholm’s non-discrimination principle applied to retailers.

The State of Michigan and its partners, the Michigan Beer & Wine Wholesalers Association, appear to want to ask the 6th Circuit Court appeals to overturn both its own decision as well as the Supreme Court’s recent decision.

Again, very optimistic of them.

The state of Michigan and the Michigan Beer and Wine Wholesalers, despite being a very optimistic bunch, haven’t had much luck in pursuing their optimistic dreams. They were both parties to the Granholm case. In that instance, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court ruled against them and their argument that the 21st Amendment allowed the state of Michigan to pass any old discriminatory law for any old reason.

The dynamic duo of the State of Michigan and its wholesalers also lost in Federal District Court when their protectionist ban on wine shipments from out-of-state retailers was challenged in 2008.

That same team lost another case in Federal District Court in 2018 after having changed their law to allow no retailers either in-state or out-of-state to ship wine to Michigan consumers and then changing the law back again to one that discriminates against out-of-state retailers in exactly the same way it did in 2008. This is the decision now being appealed to the 6th Circuit.

So, to recap:

2004: Michigan and their wholesalers lose in Direct Shipping case in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

2005: Michigan and their wholesalers lose Direct Shipping case at Supreme Court

2008: Michigan and their wholesalers lose Direct Shipping case in Michigan Federal District Court.

2017: Michigan and their wholesalers lose Direct Shipping case in Michigan Federal District Court.

Interestingly, in their current appeal to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, the State and their partners the Michigan wholesalers are essentially asking that each of the four rulings listed above be declared incorrectly decided and overruled. Optimism!

I’m a big fan of optimism. It’s a necessary trait for both success and probably a happy life. But I wonder sometimes if the line between optimism and insanity isn’t somewhat fine.

9 Responses

  1. Peter Ricci - July 3, 2019

    It is called buying time, use the system to delay the inevitable. If anyone needs another example of “the Government is the problem not the solution” Insanity!

  2. Liz Holtzclaw - July 3, 2019

    Definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.

  3. Jeremiah S. - July 3, 2019

    I hope not the MI residents, but Beer and Wine Wholesalers cover all legal expenses in these courts. If not, then they should claim a refund and sue their government for stupidity.

  4. VVP - July 3, 2019

    The supreme law of the land can’t be overruled.

  5. Stan Duncan - July 3, 2019

    So as a Michigan resident I’m still confused… is Michigan’s state law still officially stating that out of state retailers can’t ship wine to Michigan residents? If so, doesn’t the Supreme Court ruling from June 26 override that?

  6. VVP - July 5, 2019

    Stan Duncan,

    Any exercise of state authority, in whatever form manifested, which directly regulates interstate commerce, is repugnant to the commerce clause of the Constitution.

    What else is confusing you?

  7. Tom - July 5, 2019


    When the MI case was decided the judge’s order required the state immediately stop enforcining it’s ban against out-of-state retailer shipping. However, the order was stayed in lieu of the Tennessee Wine being decided. It has now been decided. While the State of MI and the Michigan Wholesalers Association plan to appeal the MI decision to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, as yet the original judge in the case has not extended his stay of the original decision to cover the time it will take to appeal the ruling. We believe out-of-state retailers will be shipping soon.

  8. Pete - July 5, 2019

    He did, the original judge in the case. He PERMANENTLY RESTRAINED AND ENJOINED them without any right to appeal.

  9. William C St Croix - July 8, 2019

    Curious to see if retailers that are out of state (and how fast?) might start testing the shipping aspects of the ruling? I’ve lived in MI, CA, UT, WA and currently KY and would L-O-V-E to be able to get my wine shipped direct to my home. Even with a Total Wine nearby, there are just certain wines they cannot get. Not to mention older vintages that some retailers often have available that one cannot get in town/state.

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