A case testing the constitutionality of state regulations on the sale of alcohol enacted after the Prohibition era brewed before the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday, with the justices appearing sympathetic toward a challenge to Tennessee’s residency requirements for retailers.
The one-hour argument came on the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the U.S. Constitution’s 18th Amendment, which imposed a nationwide ban on alcoholic beverages and paved the way for a Prohibition era that ran from 1920 to 1933.
A majority of the justices signaled support for challengers who said Tennessee’s regulations were unlawfully aimed at protecting established business interests by preventing competition.
The case pits two constitutional provisions against one another: the 21st Amendment, which repealed the 18th Amendment and ended Prohibition, and the Commerce Clause, which regulates interstate commerce.
The 21st Amendment explicitly gave states the power to regulate alcohol sales within their borders. But Supreme Court rulings regarding the Commerce Clause prevent states from discriminating against out-of-state businesses. The court in 2005 ruled that states could not let in-state wineries ship wine to consumers but prevent out-of-state wineries from doing so.
Some justices, including conservative Neil Gorsuch, expressed concern that a ruling for the challengers would lead to further litigation over whether retailers may not need even to have a physical presence in a state in order to sell alcohol.
The court last year ruled in a South Dakota sales tax case that states could tax out-of-state online retailers that do not have a physical presence in the state.
Gorsuch wondered if Maryland-based Total Wine and More, a major retailer that operates 193 stores in 23 states and is one of the challengers, wants to become the “Amazon of liquor,” referring to the online retail giant. Total Wine’s co-founder and co-owner David Trone won election in November to the U.S. House of Representatives as a Democrat from Maryland.
The case was triggered when a state-level trade association urged Tennessee officials in 2016 to reject liquor license applications from Total Wine and a couple who recently arrived from Utah and wanted to open a liquor store.
Like most states, Tennessee has various alcohol regulations affecting retailers and wholesalers, including one that effectively prevents out-of-state companies from owning stores and others that impose a two-year in-state residency requirement for business owners applying for a license and 10-year residency requirements for license renewals.
Tennessee’s alcohol regulator preemptively filed suit seeking a declaration that the regulations were lawful, but lower courts ruled against the state.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was absent from the arguments as she recovers from lung cancer surgery. She is due to take part in the ruling expected by the end of June.
Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham
GOP in a panic about what to do with Steve King as Democrats can’t wait to face him in the election
On Saturday, MSNBC's Garrett Haake broke down the nightmare situation Republicans are facing with Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who has faced outrage for years of white supremacist comments, and more recently suggested that rape and incest might be a good thing for society.
"What more recourse do Republicans have?" said host David Gura. "We had this cycle of condemnation in the past after comments were made. He was stripped of committee assignments. Is there more Republicans can do vis-a-vis Steve King?"
Trump’s economic advisers baffled over how to hold off recession that his trade war set it in motion: report
According to a report from ABC, Donald Trump's economic advisers are baffled about how to stop what appears to be a recession coming before the 2020 election after his trade war upset an already teetering worldwide economy.
With the report noting that Trump had hoped to run on a strong economy as part of his 2020 re-election strategy, warnings from economists that a recession may arrive before then has White House officials in a panic.
"The financial markets signaled the possibility of a U.S. recession this week, sending a jolt of anxiety to investors, companies and consumers. That's on top of concerns over Trump's plans to impose punishing tariffs on goods from China and word from the United Kingdom and Germany that their economies are shrinking," the report states, adding, "Trump advisers fear a weakened economy would hurt him with moderate Republican and independent voters who have been willing to give him a pass on some his incendiary policies and rhetoric."
Race to remember Berlin Wall victims, 30 years on
Where guard towers and barbed wire once stood, runners pounded the 100-mile (160 kilometer) path along the former Berlin Wall this weekend in a race with victims of the Cold War relic at its heart.
On Saturday at 6:00 am (0400 GMT), around 500 runners, started the 8th edition of the Berlin Wall Race, ahead of the 30th anniversary of the Wall's demise this November.
With weary legs, most runners will jog through Saturday night, aiming to reach the city centre stadium which doubles as both start and finish, in the early hours of Sunday.
The race is part ultra-marathon, part tribute to those who died trying to cross the Wall, which the East German communist regime hastily erected in 1961 and stood for 28 years.