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Missouri Broadcasters Association v. Schmitt

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

January 8, 2020

Missouri Broadcasters Association; Meyer Farms, Inc.; Uncle D's Sports Bar & Grill, L.L.C.; Zimmer Radio of Mid-MO, Inc. Plaintiffs - Appellees
v.
Eric S. Schmitt, Attorney General of the State of Missouri, in his official capacity; Dorothy Taylor, Acting State Supervisor of the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control Defendants - Appellants

          Submitted: September 26, 2019

          Appeal from United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri - Jefferson City

          National Beer Wholesalers Association Amicus on Behalf of Appellant(s)

          Washington Legal Foundation Amicus on Behalf of Appellee(s)

          Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America, Inc. Amicus on Behalf of Appellant(s)

          Show-Me Institute Amicus on Behalf of Appellee(s)

          Missouri Beer Wholesalers Association Amicus on Behalf of Appellant(s)

          American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri Amicus on Behalf of Appellee(s)

          Missouri Craft Brewers Guild Amicus on Behalf of Appellant(s)

          The Freedom Center of Missouri Amicus on Behalf of Appellee(s)

          American Beverage Licensees Amicus on Behalf of Appellant(s)

          Cato Institute Amicus on Behalf of Appellee(s)

          Before KELLY, MELLOY, and STRAS, Circuit Judges.

          KELLY, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         Missouri Broadcasters sued Missouri concerning a Missouri statute and two Missouri regulations that allegedly violate the First Amendment right to free speech.[1]After a bench trial, the district court[2] determined that the Missouri laws violated the First Amendment. Missouri appeals the district court's judgment.

         I. Background

         Missouri has a three-tiered system to regulate the sale and distribution of alcohol within its borders. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 311.010-.950. It consists of (1) producers (e.g., distilleries, wineries, or breweries), (2) distributors or wholesalers, and (3) retailers (e.g., bars or liquor stores). Under a strict three-tiered system, producers are prohibited from distributing and retailing, distributors are prohibited from producing and retailing, and retailers are prohibited from producing and distributing. The laws that establish this system are commonly known as "tied-house" laws.[3]

         The stated purpose of Missouri's tied-house laws, formally known as its Liquor Control Law, is "to promote responsible consumption, combat illegal underage drinking, and achieve other important state policy goals such as maintaining an orderly marketplace composed of state-licensed alcohol producers, importers, distributors, and retailers." Id. § 311.015.

         Section 311.070.1 (the Statute) of the Liquor Control Law provides, in relevant part:

Distillers, wholesalers, winemakers, brewers or their employees, officers or agents shall not, except as provided in this section, directly or indirectly, have any financial interest in the retail business for sale of intoxicating liquors, and shall not, except as provided in this section, directly or indirectly, loan, give away or furnish equipment, money, credit or ...

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