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Sarasota Wine Market, LLC v. Parson

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

June 25, 2018

MICHAEL L. PARSON[1], et al. Defendants.



         The Court issues this Amended Opinion, Memorandum and Order to address Plaintiffs' motion for relief from the original Opinion, Memorandum, and Order on the grounds that the Court should not have addressed Defendants' 12(b)(6) arguments due to Plaintiffs' lack of standing, a threshold issue. This Amended Opinion, Memorandum and Order supersedes this Court's Opinion, Memorandum and Order dated June 15, 2018, which is hereby vacated and held for naught.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). A hearing was held on April 9, 2018 and the Motion has been briefed and argued. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' Motion is GRANTED.

         Facts and Background

         Plaintiffs brought this case pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, challenging the constitutionality of Missouri's Liquor Control Law, Chapter 311 RSMo (“Liquor Control Law”).

         Like many states, Missouri “funnels liquor sales through a tier system, separating the distribution market into discrete levels.” Southern Wine and Spirits of Am., Inc. v. Division of Alc. & Tobacco Control, 731 F.3d 799, 802 (8th Cir. 2013). The first tier “consists of producers, such as brewers, distillers, and winemakers.” Id. The second tier “is comprised of solicitors, who acquire alcohol from producers and sell it ‘to, by or through' wholesalers.” Id. The third tier “is made up of wholesalers, who purchase alcohol from producers and solicitors and sell it to retailers.” Id. The fourth tier - and the tier at issue in this case - “consists of retailers, who sell alcohol to consumers.” Id. This multi-tiered system for controlling the distribution and sale of alcohol to Missouri residents is permitted by the Twenty-First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which grants states “virtually complete control over whether to permit importation or sale of liquor and how to structure the liquor distribution system.” Id. (quoting California Retail Liquor Dealers Ass'n v. Midcal Aluminum, Inc., 445 U.S.97, 110 (1980)).

         Missouri implements its multi-tier system through its Liquor Control Law. The Liquor Control Law prohibits “any person, firm, partnership, or corporation” from selling alcoholic beverages in Missouri “without taking a license.” §311.050 RSMo. To obtain a license, an applicant must demonstrate “good moral character” and establish that he/she is “a qualified legal voter and taxpaying citizen of the county, town, city or village” to be served. § 311.060.1 RSMo. These requirements apply to the managing officer of any corporation seeking a license. Id.

         Plaintiff's Complaint alleges the following:[2]

         Plaintiff Michael Schlueter is a Missouri resident who would like to purchase wine from out-of-state retailers and have it shipped to his Missouri home. Plaintiff Sarasota Wine Market, LLC d/b/a Magnum Wine and Tastings (“Magnum Wine”) is a Florida Limited Liability Company that operates a retail wine store in Sarasota, Florida. Magnum Wine would like to sell, ship, and deliver wines directly to Missouri consumers. Sarasota Wine maintains an internet site through which wine orders may be placed. Plaintiff Heath Cordes is a Florida resident who works as a professional wine consultant, advisor, and merchant, and owns and operates Magnum Wine. Cordes would like to practice his profession as a wine merchant in Missouri by consulting with, obtaining wines for, and delivering wines to Missouri residents. Defendants Missouri Governor Michael Parson, Missouri Attorney General Joshua Hawley, and Acting Supervisor of the Missouri Department of Public Safety, Division of Alcohol & Tobacco Control Keith Hendrickson are all sued in their official capacities.

         Plaintiffs' Complaint alleges that the portions of Missouri's Liquor Control Law that allow in-state retailers to ship wine to Missouri consumers while prohibiting out-of-state retailers from doing the same is unconstitutional for two reasons. First, Plaintiffs contend that the disparate treatment between in-state and out-of-state retailers violates the Commerce Clause and Supreme Court ruling in Granholm v. Heald, 544 U.S. 460 (2005) because it discriminates against out-of-state wine retailers engaged in interstate commerce. Second, Plaintiffs claim that the disparate treatment between residents and nonresidents violates the Privileges and Immunities Clause because Missouri denies non-resident wine merchants the privilege of engaging in their occupation in Missouri on terms equivalent to those given to citizens of Missouri. Plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief in this matter.

         Defendants move to dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) for lack of standing and Rule (12)(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. For their 12(b)(6) motion, Defendants contend that the constitutional validity of Missouri's multi-tiered approach to regulating liquor distribution and sale has been upheld by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in Southern Wine, 731 F.3d 799.


         “[I]f a plaintiff lacks standing, the district court has no subject matter jurisdiction.” Fabisch v. University of Minn., 304 F.3d 797, 801 (8th Cir. 2002). Therefore, motions to dismiss for lack of standing fall under the purview of Rule 12(b)(1), which permits a party to move to dismiss a complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Id. “Motions to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction can be decided in three ways: at the pleading stage, like a Rule 12(b)(6) motion; on undisputed facts, like a summary judgment motion; and on disputed facts.” Jessie v. Potter, 516 F.3d 709, 712 (8th Cir. 2008). The parties do not rely on matters outside the pleadings, therefore the Court reviews Defendant's motion as a “facial attack” on jurisdiction. In a facial attack, “the court restricts itself to the face of the pleadings, and the non-moving party receives the same protections as it would defending against a motion under Rule 12(b)(6).” Carlsen v. GameStop, Inc., 833 F.3d 903, 908 (8th Cir. 2016).

         Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a party may move to dismiss a claim for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell AtlanticCorp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A pleading that merely pleads labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, ...

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