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Yes, Virginia. There is a Wino Santa Claus - Printable Version

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- zenda2 - 04-01-2002 07:59 PM

State alcohol laws shaken
Ban on wine, beer shipments unconstitutional, judge rules

BY TOM CAMPBELL
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER Mar 31, 2002



A federal judge has declared unconstitutional Virginia's ban on direct shipments of wine and beer from other states to Virginia residents.

U.S. District Judge Richard L. Williams on Friday also declared unconstitutional the section of law authorizing operation of Alcoholic Beverage Control stores, which sell only Virginia wines.

Generally, the opinion finds that state laws improperly give an advantage to Virginia producers of alcoholic beverages over out-of-state producers. State law limits importation of beer to those licensed to sell it. Wine can be shipped from another state only to someone with a wholesale wine license.

What the opinion means for the operation of ABC stores and for the alcoholic beverage industry was not clear yesterday, but the state and wholesalers could seek a delay of Williams' order while the case is appealed.

The ruling decided a lawsuit started in 1999 as a challenge to the state's ban on direct shipment of wine from other states. Later in the case, Williams expanded its scope to look at beer and liquor as well.

The opinion accompanies, but does not specifically explain, an order that declares several key sections of Virginia alcoholic beverage laws unconstitutional. Williams also ordered the state to stop enforcing those sections. The order was entered Friday with no mention of any delay.

Those now-invalid sections include the one granting the ABC Board the power to "buy, import and sell alcoholic beverages" and the authority to "establish, maintain and operate government stores for the sale of alcoholic beverages."

Other sections struck down by Williams give the ABC Board the authority to issue a variety of beer and wine wholesale and retail licenses. He also struck down the sections making the illegal sale, purchase or importation ofalcoholic beverages crimes under Virginia law.

Matthew S. Hale, lawyer for the plaintiffs, said the ruling is based on the judge's finding that the Virginia General Assembly has passed laws that improperly protect in-state alcoholic beverage interests against out-of-state interests. Williams has ruled that violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The judge "found that the preferences that the Virginia state legislature has set up for Virginia wineries allowing them to use the direct shipment method of selling their products should also be afforded to out-of-state wineries," Hale said. "By having an in-state preference, you're discriminating against interstate commerce."

Hale and Daniel R. Ortiz, a University of Virginia law professor, filed the lawsuit against the ABC Board on behalf of two Virginia residents who wanted to buy wine by mail order or Internet and three out-of-state wineries that want to sell it.

The case was assigned to Williams, but the task of hearing evidence went to Magistrate Judge Dennis W. Dohnal.

Last July, Dohnal filed a report with recommendations for Williams. He found that the laws barring direct shipment of beer and wine to Virginia consumers from other states are unconstitutional.

But Dohnal recommended that Williams give the assembly time to change the laws before he issued a final order.

Williams' ruling makes some amendments to Dohnal's opinion based on objections raised by both sides in the case. It goes well beyond the original scope of the lawsuit.

Rep. S. Vance Wilkins Jr., R-Amherst and speaker of the House of Delegates, said the assembly will not be able to deal with the situation in its reconvened session on April 17. It would take a two-thirds vote by both the House and the Senate or action by the governor to call the legislature into special session, he said.

Del. M. Kirkland Cox, R-Colonial Heights, a senior member of the House General Laws Committee, said the assembly has long talked about privatizing the ABC store system.


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http://timesdispatch.com/news/vametro/MGBHAKEBGZC.html


- Thomas - 04-01-2002 08:33 PM

not Santa Claus, that's the wine god at work...someone send that judge a case of wine!

Let us hope the floodgates will open.


- winoweenie - 04-02-2002 08:00 AM

And a HUGE smile crosses the Curmys' countenance as he giggles all the way to his closet cellar in the sky. WW


- hotwine - 04-02-2002 08:14 AM

But the federal jusge in Virginia yesterday stayed his own order, pending the state's appeal.


- wondersofwine - 04-02-2002 09:48 AM

Wonder if we can get a UNC or Duke law professor to file suit in North Carolina!


- Scoop - 04-02-2002 02:57 PM

I've always believed in the use of the Commerce Clause to prosecute such cases, and here it has yielded very good fruit (pardon the pun). I also believe that because it is a constitutional argument, this case might end up in the US Supreme Court, where I like its chances.

BTW, what does Scalia like to imbibe, a good Brunello perhaps?

Cheers,

Scoop


- Thomas - 04-02-2002 05:19 PM

Scalia is likely a closet Bourbon man--or maybe woman...

Scoop--RAD and I are talking about tasting the fruits (pun intended) of ww's shipment on Wednesday this week, at my apt. Can you make it?

[This message has been edited by foodie (edited 04-02-2002).]


- Scoop - 04-05-2002 03:06 PM

To cap this string off, today (April 5, 2002) the Wall St. Journal took up some significant space on its editorial page to praise the Virginia decision. Next stop on the docket: New York. Then, perhaps, the US Supremo, for one or more of these cases.

Gotta love it.

Scoop


- wondersofwine - 04-11-2002 07:44 AM

There HAS been a lawsuit filed in North Carolina in reference to direct shipping of wines to customers. Ruling was that NC law is unconstitutional in light of interstate commerce laws but an appeal is expected. Crossing my fingers! Saw the article on daily wires on WS Internet site but it also appears on this site under Wine Headlines.

I've been wanting to secure some Ockfener Bockstein wine (from the Saar tributary of the Mosel River, Germany), preferably a spatlese. Haven't been able to find it in NC or order it through local wine shops. Leaving Maryland Monday I stopped at MacArthur's Beverages in DC and bought 15 bottles of wine, including two Ockfener Bockstein Kabinett (they didn't have the spatlese). It is available from sources in NYC or Chicago but would be illegal for them to ship to me under present laws. (I checked before going to DC and I'm allowed to bring into NC 20 liters of unfortified wines which at 750ml a bottle would be 26+ bottles).
Another find at MacArthur's was a 1990 Rene Leclerc Gevrey-Chambertin. I have several bottles of the 1999 which I like but feel is not fully integrated yet. I want to try it over a five-year span. It will be interesting to compare it to the 1990 vintage.