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High court takes alcohol wholesaler case

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The Indiana Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case that could decide whether beer and wine wholesalers can also be legally permitted to sell liquor in Indiana.

The justices granted transfer in the case of Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission v. Spirited Sales, LLC, 49S00-1611-PL-614, last week after Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller announced in late October that he would petition the high court to take the case.

Zoeller first became involved in 2014 when the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission denied Spirited Sales’ application for a liquor wholesale permit. Spirited Sales is an affiliate of Monarch Beverage Co. Inc., Indiana’s largest beer and wine wholesaler, and state law prohibits wine and beer wholesalers from also wholesaling liquor as a protection against monopolies.

Spirited Sales took the issue to court, and Zoeller argued that the state agency had correctly applied the law. But the Marion Superior Court overruled the ATC in August, so the agency was forced to grant a temporary permit to Spirited Sales in late September.

After the Indiana Court of Appeals denied the state’s motion for a stay, Zoeller sought an emergency stay from the Indiana Supreme Court and requested transfer at the same time.

Zoeller told Indiana Lawyer that he is pleased that the justices granted his motion for transfer and doing so will bring much needed clarity to an important legal issue that has significant policy implications for the Indiana Alcohol & Tobacco Commission.

All justices concurred with the Indiana Trial Rule 56A transfer to the high court except Mark Massa, who is not participating in the case.

The high court also granted transfer to the case of Thomas Pinner v. State of Indiana, 49S02-1611-CR-610, with all justices concurring. In that case, the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the denial of a man’s motion to suppress a handgun found on him after officers questioned him in a movie theater lobby.

The divided Court of Appeals found that the officer had no reasonable suspicion to stop Thomas Pinner, whom officers approached and questioned in a movie theater after receiving a call that a man matching his description had a gun in his possession. 

Arguments in the Pinner case are scheduled for 9 a.m. Dec. 15.

The justices denied transfer in 26 other cases last week, including Lisa R. Harris v. State of Indiana, 83A01-1509-CR-1311, and State of Indiana v. Dejon Pitchford, 49A04-1512-CR-2173, two cases that were argued on petition to transfer last week.

In Harris’ case, the Indiana Court of Appeals held that Indiana State Police Trooper Mike Organ’s investigation into Harris’ car – an investigation that eventually found meth in her possession – went above and beyond the seat belt violation he had initially stopped her for.

In Pitchford, the Court of Appeals affirmed a trial court decision to suppress evidence of narcotics found on Dejon Pitchford’s body during a strip search following his arrest for misdemeanor battery.

All Indiana Supreme Court transfer decisions can be viewed here

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