Law breaking tastes good in New York

If you're a New York resident who orders wine online from retailers outside the state, you also are a criminal, according to a federal appeals court decision handed down this week.

A Second Circuit Court of Appeals panel unanimously ruled that New York State's law permitting in-state retailers to ship wine directly to consumers but forbidding out-of-state retailers from doing the same is constitutional and within the state's rights under the 21st Amendment.

However, it is doubtful the ruling will mean much. Online sales are notoriously difficult to track and most retailers simply ignore the rules.

The ruling upheld a 2007 district court decision (Arnold's Wines Inc. v. Boyle). In it, an Indiana store and two New York consumers sued to overturn the state law. Their argument is that the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the 2005 case of Granholm v. Heald, which bans states from discriminating between in-state and out-of-state wineries, also applies to wine retailers. The district judge dismissed the case and the Court of Appeals has now concurred with that decision.

The case is just one of several in the battle between retailers and wholesalers. Since the Supreme Court handed down the Granholm decision, suits and countersuits on both sides of the debate have popped up around the country.

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