Commercial Division Blog

Posted: January 22, 2024 / Written by: Jeffrey M. Eilender, Samuel L. Butt, Seth D. Allen, Joshua Wurtzel, Channing J. Turner / Categories Constitutionality, Interstate Commerce

Court Dismisses Beer Distributors’ Constitutional Challenge of New York’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Law

On December 15, 2023, Justice Andrew Borrok granted a motion to dismiss a challenge to New York’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Law by two beer distributors, who contended the law’s regulation of alcohol distribution in the state was unconstitutional.  The decision in Boston Beer Corp., et al. v. Boening Brothers, Inc., et al., Index No. 655582/2021, found that the plaintiffs did not yet have standing to seek a declaratory judgment on the law’s constitutionality because the challenged provision concerning wholesaler consolidations in the beer industry was “remedial,” and no damage award had yet been made.  The Court explained: 

The speculation in the parties’ briefs as to how this statutory provision might be applied is hypothetical and does not present a current judiciable controversy.  Until a damage award is made, there is no basis upon which to seek a declaration of unconstitutionality . . . Stated differently, Plaintiffs bring an as-applied challenge to a statutory provision that has not yet been applied, and indeed may never be applied in this case. . . . [T]he Plaintiffs may certainly argue at that time that application of the statute with respect to those proposed damages would be excessive and thus unconstitutional once there is an actual basis upon which to make that argument. . . . [T]his as-applied challenge may present a question for tomorrow (as the Court may find that this provision of the statute is not implicated or discovery may reveal on the developed record that damages are not what the Defendants allege), but it certainly is not a question for today.

The attorneys at Schlam Stone & Dolan frequently litigate disputes concerning the constitutionality of statutes. Contact the Commercial Division Blog Committee at commercialdivisionblog@schlamstone.com if you or a client have questions concerning such issues.