Texas officials have decided to appeal a federal judge's ruling that overturned the state's ban on home deliveries from out-of-state wineries. And for the time being, Texas wine lovers are once again restricted to buying only what is available at their local liquor stores.
In July, U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon ruled that the state's wine-shipping laws -- which allow local wineries to ship their wines directly to consumers' homes, while prohibiting out-of-state wineries from doing the same -- were economically discriminatory and therefore unconstitutional. She indicated that she would issue an injunction preventing the state from enforcing its laws.
For a little more than a month, the legality of shipping wine into the state was unclear; after the ruling was announced, Texas Alcohol Beverage Control officials had indicated that residents were temporarily free to place orders with out-of-state wineries without fear of prosecution.
That changed in late August, when Harmon issued her final judgement in the case, reiterating the unconstitutionality of the laws and ordering the state to pay the attorney's fees for the plaintiffs. However, she also allowed the state to continue enforcing its current regulations pending either an appeal or the amendment of the laws.
The state attorney general's office filed notice last Friday of its intent to appeal the case to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, according to spokesman Tom Kelley.
"What we hope to achieve is to find agreement, or vindication, with the arguments that we prevented unsuccessfully at the district court level," said Lou Bright, general counsel for the ABC.
A schedule has not yet been set, but Fort Worth-based attorney Sterling Steves, who represents the three Houston wine consumers who filed the original lawsuit in 1999, estimated that it could take a year before that court reaches a decision.
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