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United States Supreme Court Asked to Hear Case on Retailer Direct Shipping

A petition for writ of certiorari was filed with the United States Supreme Court earlier this week asking the court to determine

“Whether, notwithstanding Granholm v. Heald, 544 U.S. 460 (2005), the Twenty-first Amendment overrides the Commerce Clause and allows States to discriminate against out-of-state businesses in the sale of alcoholic beverages.”

In the seminal Granholm case, the Supreme Court ruled that states cannot permit in-state wineries to ship direct to consumers within the state, while prohibiting out of state wineries from doing the same. The question of whether the same rationale applies to retailers remains unresolved. The current petition to the Supreme Court is based on a dispute in Texas as to whether out-of-state alcoholic beverage retailers should be allowed to ship to Texas consumers under the same rules applied to in-state alcoholic beverage retailers. The case was originally brought in 2006 by Siesta Village Market and several other retainers against the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. Siesta Village has dropped its appeal but K& L Wine Merchants and other notable retailers remain. A couple of large Texas distributors (Glazer’s and Republic) joined as intervenors in order to protect their position in the three-tier distribution system. The case was appealed to the Fifth Circuit on various issues and has now worked its way through to the final appeal – the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court accepts very few cases for review – typically accepting only those cases involving a substantial federal interest or a conflict between two or more Circuit Courts of Appeals. Statistically, the case stands little chance of being accepted, but the scope of the Granholm decision and its applicability to retailers (as opposed to only wineries) may be ripe for further judicial instruction. The State has until December 22 to file its response. The Court will decide whether or not to hear the case within a few months.

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