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Court is hailed by beer wholesalers.

Court is hailed by beer wholesalers

The National Beer Wholesalers Assn. has applauded a U.S. Supreme Court decision, which affirms the broad powers of all 50 states to control alcohol beverage distribution within their borders.

Ron Sarasin, NBWA president, called the ruling "a long overdue correction to a series of recent court decisions which have eaten away at state authority under the 21st Amendment."

Last year, the NBWA filed a "friend-of-the-court" brief in the case, North Dakota vs. United States, supporting the state of North Dakota's right to impose labeling and other requirements on out-of-state supplies of liquor destined for military bases in the state.

In the Court's May 21st decision, it adopted the position urged by the NBWA. Justice John Paul Stevens ruled that a state's exercise of its authority to prevent liquor from being diverted into state commerce should be upheld. State liquor regulations, Stevens said, are "supported by a strong presumption of validity and should not be set aside lightly." Justice Antonin Scalia agreed, as he observed that the "Twenty-first Amendment... binds the Federal government like everyone else."

By a 5-4 vote, the Court upheld North Dakota's regulations that require distillers to attach labels on bottles sold directly to the military, stating that the liquor can only be consumed on the bases. A unanimous Court upheld other North Dakota laws requiring a report of all deliveries made to the military in the state.

Last year, those regulations had been challenged by the Department of Defense as being improper intrusions into federal power. However, in reversing a lower court ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that neither regulation directly burdened the Federal government, nor did it discriminate against military suppliers.

NBWA counsel, Ernest Gellhorn, said this decision seems to portend a new direction in the Supreme Court's recognition of state power under the 21st Amendment. "By selecting our cases carefully," Gellhorn said, "the 21st Amendment may return to its unique role in our federal system as a strong foundation upholding carefully crafted state regulations of alcohol beverages."
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Title Annotation:recent Supreme Court decision
Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Date:Jun 4, 1990
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