Connecticut’s Liquor Pricing Laws Upheld Against Total Wine’s Claim

February 22, 2019 Press Release

Hartford - Wiggin and Dana Partners, Robert M. Langer and Benjamin H. Diessel, representing the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of Connecticut, again secured victory and played a central role as co-lead counsel for the intervening defendants in the case captioned, Connecticut Fine Wine and Spirits, LLC, d/b/a Total Wine & More v. Seagull.  On February 20, the Second Circuit affirmed the 2017 decision of the District of Connecticut, holding that certain of Connecticut’s liquor pricing laws, i.e., its minimum retail price provisions, the statutory prohibition on price discrimination, and Connecticut’s “post and hold” provisions, are each constitutional, i.e., they are not preempted under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution by Section 1 of the Sherman Act.  Under controlling U.S. Supreme Court case law, a state statute that is alleged to violate the antitrust laws on its face, may be preempted only if it requires or mandates conduct that in all cases would constitute a per se violation of the antitrust laws.  In upholding Connecticut’s laws, the Second Circuit agreed with the positions asserted by the state officials, Michelle Seagull, Connecticut’s Commissioner of Consumer Protection, and John Suchy, Director of Connecticut Liquor Control Division, both named defendants, and the intervening defendants, that each statutory provision challenged by Total Wine is in fact constitutional.  

Mr. Langer and Mr. Diessel co-chair Wiggin and Dana's Antitrust and Consumer Protection Practice Group. Mr. Langer previously served as Connecticut's Assistant Attorney General in charge of the antitrust and consumer protection and has taught antitrust and constitutional law for almost four decades.