In Celebration of the U.S. Constitution


September 17, 2019 9:54AM

Today is Constitution Day. And on what should be a universally recognized holiday, I was privileged to be invited to speak at the illustrious Cato Institute on Constitutional Structure with two of the finest constitutional scholars in the land. Even though I am sure to be the yellow flavor Starburst in this particular packet, this is will be the unveiling of a law review article on the recent Tennessee Wine & Liquor Supreme Court case in the forthcoming Cato Supreme Court Review.

The Tennessee Wine & Liquor case has garnered a fair amount of attention, probably above and beyond a typical Supreme Court case. And that’s mainly because of the sheer, stupid cruelty of the law in question. Tennessee won’t give licenses to sell wine and liquor unless you have lived in Tennessee for a full two years. The Ketchum family moved to Tennessee upon their doctor’s advice that their daughter’s special needs required it ran into this law only after they had cashed in their life savings and moved cross country.

There’s no doubt that the law would have been unconstitutional 100% of the time if it had involved anything other than alcohol. A huge part of the reason why we abandoned the Articles of Convention in favor of the Constitution was because of the problem of states enacting all of these legal barriers to disfavoring other states’ citizens of their own. The problem is that alcohol has a history in America unlike any other product (legal, outlawed, then legal again, all through Constitutional amendments). So can a state so blatantly discriminate against residents from other states when it involves liquor licenses? Alcohol does tend to make easy things hard, but can it complicate an easy constitutional law question? As it turned out, the Ketchum family prevailed. In the long run, there are a lot of half-baked liquor laws out there that are ripe for re-analysis now that alcohol laws are not above examination.

You can read more about it by picking up a copy of the excellent Cato Supreme Court Review or read a copy of my article here.