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Robin Garr's Wine Lovers' Page will publish news releases from winery and wine industry sources. We welcome news releases, but reserve the right to limit publication to those that in our judgement contain significant news and information content. We also reserve the right to edit and condense material received.

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  Texas wine-sale ban shot down

Coalition for Free Trade
Feb. 14, 2000


Lone Star State Must Remove Trade Barriers
Texan Ban on Interstate Wine Sales Held Unconstitutional

NOW ONLINE - Click here for the full text of the ruling.

San Francisco – On Feb. 11, 2000, U.S. Federal Judge Melinda Harmon decided, in a 43-page opinion, that Texas cannot prohibit consumers from buying and receiving wine from out-of-state wineries. Judge Harmon ruled in favor of the consumer plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed last spring in U.S. District Court in Houston by Mark Harwell of Cotham, Harwell & Evans and Sterling Steves of Lane, Ray Wilson, Carr & Steves.

The consumers Randy Pennington, C.A. Dickerson and David Vukovic successfully challenged the Texas anti-direct shipping statute that prevented them from purchasing and receiving wine direct from small California and Arkansas wineries. Judge Harmon’s opinion explains that small wineries, that comprise over 90% of the total market in number but less that 10% of the total production volume, cannot realistically meet the statute’s burdens of obtaining permits and distributors for the limited quantity of product that they have available to sell. Mark Harwell noted, "Judge Harmon has written by far the most scholarly and in-depth opinion by the federal courts on this issue and it should make quite a difference in the ongoing legal fight against protectionism directed at small out-of state wineries."

"The court’s opinion represents a great leap forward in the direct shipping issue. The plaintiffs’ attorneys should receive the highest praise from wine consumers throughout the nation," said Vivienne Y. Nishimura, CFT Executive Director.

Consumers in Indiana have also won a preliminary court victory. A total of five lawsuits of this nature have been filed within the past eighteen months. In addition to the successes in Texas and Indiana, three cases are pending in Virginia, New York and Florida. Currently, eight states have felony provisions for out-of-state businesses wishing to engage in interstate commerce of wine. Twenty-nine states prohibit out-of-state purchases and shipments in some fashion. "The judge’s opinion not only captured the essence of the direct shipping controversy but offers a detailed analysis on the Commerce Clause and 21st Amendment issues," said Bill Kinzler, CFT General Counsel.

The Texan plaintiffs must submit an order of relief within fourteen days. The State of Texas then has five days to object.

The Coalition for Free Trade seeks judicial relief from laws prohibiting consumer choice and open trade. Through research, education, and litigation CFT seeks to remedy state laws banning interstate direct sales of wine.

Contact:
Cotham, Harwell & Evans
Mark Harwell or Mark Cotham
email: Cothammark@aol.com

Coalition for Free Trade
Vivienne Nishimura, Executive Director
e-mail: vyn@coalitionft.org

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