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21st Amendment chain blocked from federal cold-beer suit

December 12, 2013

A magistrate judge has blocked a retail liquor store chain’s bid to join a federal lawsuit filed by convenience stores challenging an Indiana law that forbids them from selling cold beer.

Magistrate Judge Debra McVicker Lynch of the U.S. Court for the Southern District of Indiana on Wednesday issued a 13-page order denying Indianapolis-based 21st Amendment Inc.’s motion to intervene. The suit claims Indiana’s prohibition on groceries and convenience stores selling cold beer violates the equal protection clause of the U.S Constitution and Article 1, Section 1 of the Indiana Constitution.

The 21st Amendment chain of 19 stores sought to intervene on the basis that the statute permitting cold beer sales in package stores is a benefit given in exchange for the limits imposed on them. State laws forbid liquor stores from selling many grocery items or cold bottled water, for example.

Lynch ruled that 21st Amendment was not entitled to intervene in the case because it failed to satisfy the final element of a four-pronged test under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24(a)(2): that no existing party represented 21st Amendment’s interest.

Lynch wrote that 21st Amendment “has no right to intervene because Indiana’s Attorney General is actively defending the constitutionality of the laws challenged by the plaintiffs.” Attorney General Greg Zoeller has said his office will defend the statutes and that any changes in the state’s liquor laws should be up to the Legislature.

Allowing 21st Amendment’s intervention in the case would unnecessarily complicate the litigation and delay its resolution, she wrote. She said 21st Amendment may later seek to file an amicus brief.

The case is Indiana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, et al. v. Huskey, et al., 1:13-CV-0784.

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