ILNews

Judge: Wine shipping law unconstitutional

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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Indiana's law prohibiting out-of-state wineries from shipping to Hoosier customers without face-to-face contact is unconstitutional, a federal judge in Indianapolis has ruled.

U.S. District Judge John D. Tinder issued a 71-page decision http://www.insd.uscourts.gov/News/Baude.pdf, and a separate four-page judgment http://www.insd.uscourts.gov/News/BaudeJudgment.pdf and injunction late Wednesday in Patrick L. Baude et al. v. David L. Heath and Wine and Sprits Wholesalers of Indiana, No. 1:05-cv-0735-JDT-TAB.

At issue in this case was whether state statute involving direct wine shipment violated the out-of-state wineries rights by barring them from newly created direct wine seller permits. The law went into effect in March 2006, and this federal suit came the following month.

Plaintiffs include a major Michigan winery, Chateau Grand Traverse, and five consumers. They challenged the law, part of which mandated they have at least one face-to-face transaction to allow the winery to verify the customer's age. The winery contended the rules discriminated against out-of-state wineries by preventing them from competing in the direct-sale market, and the consumers argued they were barred from obtaining many wines because of the impracticality of traveling outside the state or to complete the in-person requirement.

Defendant Heath, commissioner of the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission, contended the laws do not discriminate and are needed to prevent the sale of alcohol to minors - the state's interest in protecting its youth outweighs any incidental burdens on interstate commerce.

Judge Tinder disagreed, noting that the requirement creates a trade barrier for wineries by requiring them to set up shop in Indiana or limit their potential market to buyers willing to travel to them.

This is not the first time wine connoisseurs have challenged Indiana's authority to regulate direct shipments of wine into the state. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago dealt a blow to wine lovers in 2000 with a ruling that the state could prohibit direct shipments, but since that case of Bridenbaugh v. Freeman-Wilson, 227 F.3d 848, 854 (7th Cir. 2000), the U.S. Supreme Court has weighed in to change the legal landscape.

In 2005, the court ruled in the Michigan case of Granholm v. Heald, 544 W.S. 460, 493 (2005) that states could not discriminate against out-of-state-wineries by prohibiting them from shipping directly to consumers if the state laws allowed in-state wineries to do so. The court ruled the repealed 21st Amendment on Prohibition did not override the requirements of the Commerce Clause in regulating interstate commerce of goods.

Relying on that high court ruling, Judge Tinder based his determination and granted the injunction enjoining the Alcohol and Tobacco Commission from enforcing the rule.

"This court's decision is likely to be of immediate interest only to those out-of-state wineries with an existing base of Indiana customers or wine connoisseurs who may have the means to persuade out-of-state firms to undertake the effort," he wrote. "Indiana wineries will not need to change any of their current business practices. Indeed, there is little likelihood that much will change before the General Assembly meets again."
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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

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  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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