Victory for Vintners In Wine Wars!

John Kramer
John Kramer · May 16, 2005

Washington, D.C.–In a case with huge implications for interstate and electronic commerce, the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Justice and its clients today hailed the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision striking down laws that forbid the direct interstate shipment of wine to consumers. IJ represents family winery owners Juanita Swedenburg from Virginia and David Lucas from California, as well as New York consumers who would like to purchase their wines. The Institute and its clients issued the following statements after learning of today’s decision:

“This is the best day for wine-lovers since the invention of the corkscrew,” said Clint Bolick, the strategic litigation counsel for the Institute for Justice. “This landmark ruling is a victory for consumers and small businesses and a defeat for economic protectionism. It demonstrates that in the era of the Internet, the Court will vindicate the principles of free trade that made this country great.”

Bolick said, “Now wine lovers all across the nation can obtain their favorite wines without having to commit an act of civil disobedience.”

Steve Simpson, a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice, said, “This decision reaffirms the basic principle that the authority to regulate does not include the authority to discriminate. It will be a boon to free trade, not only in wine, but across the board.”

Chip Mellor, the president and co-founder of the Institute for Justice said, “This victory is about much more than wine—it is about the freedom of small businesses to operate without arbitrary and anti-competitive government regulation getting in their way. Now that we have set this important precedent, we’ll work to expand on it to help other entrepreneurs who face similar government-imposed good-old-boy networks. This is an important step, but it is only one step in the Institute for Justice’s long-term national campaign to advance economic liberty—the right to earn an honest living.”

Juanita Swedenburg, the Middleburg, Va., vintner who was the Institute for Justice’s lead plaintiff in its challenge, said, “This opens up interstate markets just like our Founding Fathers envisioned. They wanted us to be one nation when it comes to trade—not 50 states. This is a boon for America’s wine-loving consumers who like to have various wines from throughout the nation.”

David Lucas, founder of the Lucas Winery in Lodi, Calif., and a client of the Institute for Justice, said, “This is great news for adult consumers who are looking for unique wines—for wines that don’t appear on the local shelf. We all know that economic discrimination doesn’t work and this decision will increase the market for everyone interested in wine—for wholesalers, for small wineries, for everyone. This decision will grow the pie, not divide it. Thank goodness for the wisdom of the Founding Fathers and for the court that has seen through the smoke screen of temperance and taxation that the wholesalers have tried to throw up.”

Robin Brooks-Rigolosi, a wine consumer from New York City and client of the Institute for Justice, said, “This monumental victory isn’t just for people who just like wine, but for all Americans who love liberty. Tonight I’ll toast our Constitution.”

Read the Opinion from U.S.S.C. (May 16, 2005)