Granholm v. Heald (03-1116) and order list
Greetings, Court Fans!
Under the Michigan law, Michigan wineries could sell directly to consumers, but out-of-state wineries had to sell through Michigan wholesalers and retailers. New York technically allowed out-of-state wineries to sell directly to New York customers, but only if they established in-state distribution operations. Citing its "dormant" Commerce Clause jurisprudence holding that the states cannot differentiate between in-state and out-of-state economic interests (a rule essential to avoiding "economic Balkanization" of the country), the majority easily found that these statutes discriminated against interstate commerce. Ordinarily, that would have ended the inquiry, but New York and Michigan argued that their laws were saved by the 21st Amendment, which repealed Prohibition at the federal level but provided that "[t[he transportation or importation into any State . . . of intoxication liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited." The states argued that "in violation of the laws thereof" exempted state liquor laws from the dormant Commerce Clause bar. The majority rejected this argument after a lengthy discussion of history and case law The essence is this: before Prohibition, Congress enacted two statutes (the Wilson Act and the Webb-Kenyon Act) that the Court later interpreted to allow states to regulate the shipment of liquor so long as they did not discriminate against interstate commerce. The 21st Amendment tracked the language of these statutes, thereby restoring this framework after Prohibition. Some Court decisions that came down soon after ratification of the 21st Amendment, notably State Board of Equalization of California v. Young's Market in 1936, gave the states broad powers to erect trade barriers to out-of-state liquor, but -- according to yesterday's majority -- those cases "did not take account of this history and were inconsistent with this view" -- i.e., they were wrong. The Court construed its 1984 decision in Bacchus Imports v. Dias, which invalidated a Hawaii excise tax exemption that applied only to in-state liquors, as making clear that the 21st Amendment did not abrogate the nondiscrimination principle of the Commerce Clause. Finally, the majority rejected New York's and Michigan's attempts to justify their laws as advancing legitimate local purposes that couldn't be achieved in a nondiscriminatory way: There was no evidence that Internet purchasing of wine by minors was a serious problem (the Court noted that kids generally want "beer, wine coolers and hard liquor" -- no comment as to what that says about Kennedy's clerks), or that prohibiting only out-of-state direct shipments would solve it; and their tax-collection objectives were either illusory or achievable without discrimination.
In its order list, the Court granted cert in Arbaugh v. Y&H Corp. (04-944). The question presented is: Does the provision of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that bans employment discrimination only by employers that have 15 or more employees limit subject matter jurisdiction of the federal courts, or does it only raise an issue going to the merits of a Title VII claim?
The Court also granted cert in two consolidated cases presenting similar questions relating to sovereign immunity: United States v. Georgia (04-1203) (Is Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act a proper exercise of Congress' power under Section 5 of the 14th Amendment, as applied to the administration of prison systems?) and Goodman v. Georgia (04-1236) (Does Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act validly abrogate state sovereign immunity for suits by prisoners with disabilities challenging discrimination by state-operated prisons and, if so, to what extent?).
That's all for the week -- the Court has gone on recess again until the 23rd. Thanks, as always, for reading!
Ken & Kim