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SCOTUS asked to take Indiana wine case

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The Supreme Court of the United States is being asked to consider the constitutionality of Indiana's wine shipping law, which requires in-person contact before any direct delivery is allowed.

While there's no guarantee the nation's highest court will accept it, chances may be greater since conflicting rationale has surfaced among the lower appellate courts in the past year.

Attorneys today filed a petition for writ of certiorari in Patrick L. Baude, et al. v. David L. Heath and Indiana Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of Indiana, Nos. 07-3323 and 07-3338, which challenges an Aug. 7, 2008, ruling from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Circuit Court ruled that Hoosiers must first make a face-to-face contact at a winery to verify their age before being allowed to purchase any alcohol online or by phone. Appellate judges reversed a 2007 ruling from then-U.S. District Judge John D. Tinder in Indianapolis, who'd struck down part of the state's 2006 law banning out-of-state shipments to Indiana customers without that initial in-person contact.

In its reasoning, the appellate panel made up of Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook and Judges William Bauer and Richard Posner disagreed with Judge Tinder's reasoning on the in-person contact rule, noting that the absence of face-to-face age verification made it easier for minors to have wine sent to them.

The SCOTUS has no timeline regarding when it will decide whether to accept the case, which has been assigned a docketing number of 08A443.

This request comes following a Dec. 24 ruling from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, which struck down Kentucky's state law requiring in-person contact before consumers could obtain a wine shipment. That case is Cherry Hill Vineyards v. Lilly, No. 07-5128, and representing the appellees is attorney and Indiana University Maurer School of Law-Bloomington professor James Tanford, who is also counsel on this 7th Circuit case.

"The Seventh Circuit has openly refused to follow this Court's Commerce Clause cases and the decisions of all other circuits," the petition states. "If allowed to stand, it will create an intolerable situation in which the Seventh Circuit becomes the only Circuit where heightened scrutiny is not given to laws with discriminatory effects. This reason alone would call for an exercise of this Court's supervisory power to vacate the opinion even if no Circuit split existed."

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