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May 16, 2005

The Supreme Court Fights For Your Right To Party

...with out-of-state wine purchases:

Wine lovers may buy directly from out-of-state vineyards, the Supreme Court ruled Monday, striking down laws banning a practice that has flourished because of the Internet and growing popularity of winery tours.

The 5-4 decision overturns laws in New York and Michigan, which supporters said were aimed at protecting local wineries and limiting underage drinkers from purchasing wine without showing proof of age. In all, 24 states have laws barring interstate shipments.

The court said the state bans are discriminatory and anticompetitive.

"States have broad power to regulate liquor," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority. "This power, however, does not allow states to ban, or severely limit, the direct shipment of out-of-state wine while simultaneously authorizing direct shipment by in-state producers."

"If a state chooses to allow direct shipments of wine, it must do so on evenhanded terms," he wrote in an opinion joined by Justices Antonin Scalia, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.

Antonin F'n' Scalia. Seriously, this guy is right on just about every issue.

I'm wondering about the conservative/statist judges who disagreed. Rehnquist, the normally sensible Thomas... Guys? You're supporting restraint of interstate trade? On what possible conservative grounds?

Surely not because "Demon Wine" threatens the fabric of society.

Thanks to Ogre Gunner.

Perhaps Thomas Has a Point Update: DaveJ scolds me for assuming that laissez-faire economics and libertarianism ought to trump clear Constitutional authority.

Thomas argues here, in a dissent to the decision, that the 21st Amendment affords states the right to "regulate" alcohol sales.

Well, yes, but... another part of the Constitution would seem to forbid economic barriers to interstate trade.

So does that part of the 21st Amendment cancel out the Commerce Clause? Or should it be read as applying to intrastate restrictions on the sale of alcohol (remember, counties and states are still permitted, if they wish, to be "dry," i.e., forbid alcohol sales entirely) which must yet comport with the Commerce Clause -- e.g., pass whatever laws you like about booze, but you still can't descriminate against out-of-state booze in favor of homegrown hooch?

Read it and decide for yourselves. If you care to, of course.


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posted by Ace at 01:25 PM

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