Oral Argument Analysis for January 16, 2019—Ripeness, Takings, & Alcohol Regulation

           The Court heard oral arguments in two cases on Wednesday, January 16, 2019. First up was Knick v. Township of Scott, Pennsylvania, in which the Court is being asked to decide two questions: (1) whether to uphold the ripeness doctrine of Williamson County Regional Planning Commission v. Hamilton Bank (a rule that property owners must exhaust their state court options to ripen a federal takings claim); and (2) whether the Williamson County rule applies to a takings claim asserting that a law is unconstitutional on its face. Petitioner Knick argued that the interpretation of the Fifth Amendment’s Just Compensation Clause should be the same regardless of whether a claim is brought against a local government entity or against the United States in a claim under the Tucker Act.  Respondents countered by noting that permitting all takings plaintiff to go straight to federal court would upset the congressionally created balance of authority between state and federal courts. This is the second time that the Court has heard oral arguments in Knick; the was on October 3, 2018 before the confirmation of Justice Kavanaugh. More coverage on this year’s arguments can be found in this Forbes article and this Daily Caller article.

           The second case argued was Tennessee Wine & Spirits Retailers Association v. Blair, in which the Court is being asked to decide whether states, consistent with the Dormant Commerce Clause, can regulate liquor sales by granting liquor licenses only to individuals or entities that have resided in the state for a specified period of time.

Petitioner Tennessee Wine & Spirits argued that their policy is justified under the Twenty-First Amendment, the 1933 amendment that repealed Prohibition.  The purpose of the Twenty-First Amendment, they argue, was to constitutionalize states’ pre-Prohibition powers, which included the power to discriminate against out-of-state interests. They contested that protectionist policies that might otherwise violate the Dormant Commerce Clause are constitutional because they involve the regulation of alcohol and therefore are justified under the Twenty-First Amendment. Respondents counter that if a statute’s only purpose is to be protectionist of local industries, that statute ought to be considered an unconstitutional discrimination against out-of-state economic interests, and that the Twenty-First Amendment does not immunize this regulation from Dormant Commerce Clause scrutiny. Respondent further argued that Tennessee’s interest in protecting against alcohol can be fully achieved without the durational residency requirements. Coverage of the arguments and the case can be found in this WREG News article, this Forbes article, and this Wine Spectator article. The Jurist also briefly summarizes both cases.

This Article was Written by ISCOTUS Fellow Zoe Arthurson-McColl, Chicago-Kent Class of 2020, edited by ISCOTUS Editorial Coordinator Matthew Webber, Chicago-Kent Class of 2019, and ISCOTUS Co-Director and Chicago-Kent Faculty Member Christopher W. Schmidt.

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