Oklahoma State Supreme Court Hears Argument Over Liquor Distribution

Tuesday, November 5th 2019, 6:52 pm
By: Aaron Brilbeck

The Oklahoma State Supreme Court is in recess after hearing arguments over how the state regulates alcohol sales.   

The court is determining whether laws regulating wine and liquor distribution are constitutional. And justices aren’t pulling any punches.

“So why did you mess up the ballot title?” asked Noma Gurich, Oklahoma Chief Justice.

“We did not mess up the ballot title madam chief justice. We accurately wrote the ballot title,” responded Mithun Mansinghani, the OK Solicitor General.

Justices showed very little patience with the state. At issue; whether state law regarding wine and liquor distribution violates the state constitution.

Opponents say the law, SB 608, reverses the state alcohol modernization law passed by a vote of the people.

“Don’t you agree a seller has the right to choose who it sells to?” asked Chief Justice Gurich.

“I think that’s correct and that’s subject to reasonable regulation by the state, and that’s what the anti-trust laws are for,” replied Mansinghani.

The state argues the law prevents monopolies.

“Two wholesalers control 80-90 percent of the market through these agreements that specifically harm wholesalers who are plaintiffs competitors, they harm retailers who are plaintiffs customers,” argued Mansinghani.

Attorney Robert McCampbell said, “The people of Oklahoma voted to adopt the distribution system that the majority of states have adopted where the manufacturer can elect.”

Metro liquor store owners say getting stock isn’t difficult for them now and prices haven’t gone up.

“They have now opened what they call a cross dock, which is basically a warehouse in town and it’s open at 10 o’clock, open till six o’clock at night, and any day of the week if I need something, I can run over and pick it up,” said Ken Kilbourn of Market Wine & Liquor.

But there are no distribution centers in rural areas. 

Justices expressed frustration, saying the state didn’t offer any concrete evidence to support its case that the law is constitutional.

No word when justices will render their decision.