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Sixth Circuit rules Kentucky wine laws unconstitutional
Sixth Circuit rules Kentucky wine laws unconstitutional

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit [official website] Wednesday upheld [opinion, PDF] a district court ruling that two Kentucky statutes regulating interstate wine sales were unconstitutional. The Sixth Circuit agreed that KRS 243.155 and KRS 244.165 [texts], requiring out-of-state wine to be purchased in-person, were discriminatory and thus violate the Commerce Clause [Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3; text] of the US Constitution. The court found that the in-person requirement, which would force Kentucky residents to travel as much as 4,800 miles in some circumstances, was financially infeasible. Judge Eric L. Clay, writing for the court on whether plaintiffs had met the burden of demonstrating the laws favored in-state actors and burdened out-of-state actors:

Because of the economic and logistical barriers caused by the in-person requirement, small Kentucky wineries benefit from less competition from out-of-state wineries. … Kentucky’s wholesalers receive benefits that are even more direct: based upon the evidence presented by Plaintiffs, [they and similar wineries] would bypass Kentucky’s wholesalers altogether if the in-person purchase requirement were lifted.

The Kentucky case arose in the wake of Granholm v. Heald, a 2005 US Supreme Court ruling that found similar statutes in New York and Michigan unconstitutional [JURIST report]. The issue has been debated in several states [advocacy website], as vineyards seek to expand their market and out-of-state distributors seek to expand diversify their inventory.