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SCOTUS denies Indiana wine case

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The Supreme Court of the United States won't consider whether Indiana's wine shipping law is constitutional by requiring in-person contact before any direct delivery is allowed.

Justices considered the case of Patrick L. Baude, et al. v. David L. Heath and Indiana Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of Indiana, Nos. 07-3323 and 07-3338, at a private conference on Thursday, and the decision denying the writ of certiorari came this morning when the order list was released.

Attorneys had asked the court in early February to accept the case, which challenged an Aug. 7, 2008, ruling from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Circuit court ruled that Hoosiers must first make 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 decision 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.

Indianapolis attorney Jon Laramore with Baker & Daniels, who represented the Indiana Winegrowers Guild, said he wasn't surprised even though there was some hope the justices would take the case because of a conflict between the 6th and 7th Circuits. That conflict came after a December ruling that struck down Kentucky's law requiring in-person contact before consumers could obtain a wine shipment.

But Ice Miller attorney Brian Paul, who represented the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of Indiana, said he wasn't surprised by the decision. Plaintiffs had argued that a conflict between the 6th and 7th Circuits needed to be addressed, but Paul said that the high court isn't ready to step into that debate.

"It's too early for them to take this," he said. "The Supreme Court likes to have Circuits flush out conflicts before deciding to get involved."

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