Michigan Consumers Lose, But Precedent Remains
I see in the Chicago Tribune an article on the Michigan legislature’s move to eliminate Michigan wine retailers’ shipping privileges in response to losing a discrimination suit in U.S. District court in September. While nothing is final yet, the situation doesn’t look good to prevent the bill from passing. You may recall a few weeks ago that a U.S. District judge ruled that Michigan law discriminated against out-of-state wine retailers by preventing them from shipping wine to Michigan consumers, a privilege enjoyed by in-state Michigan retailers. At the behest of Michigan wholesalers, yesterday the Michigan legislature moved towards bringing state law into concordance with the court’s ruling. Unfortunately, it is doing so by “leveling down”, which is a euphemism for removing the privilege from Michigan retailers. This is not the desired result as it restricts consumer access and choice only to protect the interests of wholesalers.
But all is not lost here. While the Michigan response to the court decision is not a positive for anyone except Michigan wholesalers, the good news is that, while Michigan can change the law, the important precedent set by the court that retailers fall within the Granholm rationale remains. Precedents such a this one, combined with other precedent-setting decisions like Siesta Village Market in Texas earlier this year, provide much needed legal ammunition for the argument that this type of disparity in treatment of in-state and out-of-state commerce is discriminatory and in contravention of the dormant Commerce Clause. Consumers may have lost in Michigan, but the movement towards consumer choice and access continues forward.