Idlewild Bon Voyage Liquor Corporation v. Rohan

Decision Date04 November 1960
Citation188 F. Supp. 434
PartiesIDLEWILD BON VOYAGE LIQUOR CORPORATION, Plaintiff, v. Thomas E. ROHAN, Martin C. Epstein, William H. Morgan, Grant F. Daniels and Samuel M. Birnbaum, being the Chairman, Members and Commissioners of the State Liquor Authority of the State of New York, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of New York

Kelly & Schwartz, New York City, Charles H. Tuttle, John F. Kelly, Charles T. Hall, New York City, of counsel, for plaintiff.

Louis J. Lefkowitz, Atty. Gen. of New York, Philip Watson, Asst. Atty. Gen. of New York, of counsel, for defendants.

BICKS, District Judge.

Plaintiff, a New York corporation, conducts business from premises it occupies at the New York International Airport, County of Queens, pursuant to a lease by the terms of which the demised premises may be used only as an office for the receipt of orders for export of United States customs bonded wines and liquors. The defendants constitute the New York State Liquor Authority, an administrative agency created under Article 2 of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law of the State of New York.

Wines and liquors sold by the plaintiff are not for consumption in the State of New York or in any other state, territory or possession of the United States.

The premises occupied by plaintiff have been approved by and are under the supervision of the United States Bureau of Customs. The wines and liquors sold by plaintiff are purchased solely for export from vendors who withdraw the same from Class 6 United States Government bonded manufacturing and United States Customs bonded warehouses for rewarehousing at the United States Customs-controlled space in plaintiff's leased premises. Every bottle withdrawn by plaintiff is, pursuant to the provisions of the Internal Revenue Code and applicable regulations thereunder, labeled "Bottled for export from the U.S.A." Plaintiff complies as well with § 311 of the Tariff Act as amended, 19 U.S.C.A. § 1311, § 5301 of the Internal Revenue Code, 26 U.S.C.A. § 5301, and the regulations promulgated under each of said statutes, the design and purpose whereof being to prevent diversion of any of the bonded wines and liquors to any use other than export from the United States.

Plaintiff receives orders and payment at its premises at the airport from passengers departing by non-stop planes destined for foreign countries. The merchandise is delivered to the air line with approved documents for foreign export, delivery to be made to the passenger-purchaser only upon arrival at the foreign destination. The passenger is thus enabled to export for delivery to himself upon arrival abroad, a quantity of liquor not exceeding the maximum permitted for duty-free import at the point of disembarkation, at a substantial saving. The Treasury Department has expressly approved these procedures and has ruled that sales so consummated constitute an exportation of merchandise within the meaning of § 311 of the Tariff Act.

Plaintiff made inquiry of the New York State Liquor Authority whether conduct of its business in the manner above set forth contravenes the New York State Alcoholic Beverage Control Law. Before replying, the State Liquor Authority asked the New York State Attorney General for an opinion. He ruled (See 1960, Op.Atty.Gen. June 30) that the business of the plaintiff constituted sales or selling within the meaning of § 3, subd. 28 of the New York State Alcoholic Beverage Control Law;1 that said law contains no provision that would authorize issuance of a license to plaintiff to conduct its business, and that under § 100, subd. 12 of the State Law no person is permitted to sell any alcoholic beverage within the state without a license. The New York Importers & Distillers Association circularized its members advising that in view of the position of the Attorney General and of § 62 of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law, they could not legally fill plaintiff's orders. Plaintiff has not since been able to make purchases to meet its requirements and faces the prospect of closing its doors, with consequent substantial damage.

Plaintiff urges that § 3, subd. 28, § 62 and § 100, subds. 1 and 2 of the New York State Alcoholic Beverage Control Law, as sought to be applied to it are repugnant to (i) the commerce clause, (ii) the clause prohibiting a state from laying imposts or duties on imports or exports without the consent of Congress, and (iii) the supremacy clause of the constitution and therefore unconstitutional. These contentions rest on the claim that the Tariff Act of 1930 as amended, and the regulations adopted thereunder, taken together with the applicable provisions of the Internal Revenue Code, constitute a comprehensive, exclusive and preemptive scheme duly adopted by Congress for the regulation, encouragement and promotion of foreign commerce in, and export of, bonded wines and liquors.

Plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief and has moved for the impanelling of a three-judge district court pursuant to 28 U.S.C.A. §§ 2281, 2284.

The threshold issue is whether the federal courts should accept jurisdiction now since the issues have never been presented to or passed upon by the state courts. In a series of cases beginning with Railroad Commission of Texas v. Pullman Co., 1941, 312 U.S. 496, 61 S.Ct. 643, 85 L.Ed. 971, the Supreme Court has set out the procedure for resolving constitutional issues which are reasonably open to construction. "* * * No principle has found more consistent or clear expression than that the federal courts should not adjudicate the constitutionality of state enactments fairly open to interpretation until the state courts have been afforded a reasonable opportunity to pass upon them. See, e. g., Railroad Commission of Texas v. Pullman Co., supra; City of Chicago v. Fieldcrest Dairies, Inc., 316 U.S. 168, 62 S.Ct. 986, 86 L.Ed. 1355; Spector Motor Service, Inc. v. McLaughlin, 323 U.S. 101, 65 S.Ct. 152, 89 L.Ed. 101; American Federation of Labor v. Watson, 327 U.S. 582, 66 S.Ct. 761, 90 L.Ed. 873; Shipman v. Du Pre, 339 U.S. 321, 70 S.Ct. 640, 94 L.Ed. 877; Albertson v. Millard, 345 U.S. 242, 73 S.Ct. 600, 97 L. Ed. 983; Government & Civic Employees Organizing Committee, C. I. O. v. Windsor, 353 U.S. 364, 77 S.Ct. 838, 1 L.Ed. 2d 894. This principle does not, of course, involve the abdication of federal jurisdiction, but only the postponement of its exercise; it serves the policy of comity inherent in the doctrine of abstention; and it spares the federal courts of unnecessary constitutional adjudication. See City of Chicago v. Fieldcrest Dairies, Inc., supra, at 172-173, 62 S.Ct. at page 988." Harrison v. N. A. A. C. P., 1959, 360 U.S. 167, 176-177, 79 S.Ct. 1025, 1030, 3 L.Ed.2d 1152. "Reflected among the concerns which have traditionally counseled a federal court to stay its hand are the desirability of avoiding unseemly conflict between two sovereignties, the unnecessary impairment of state functions, and the premature determination of constitutional questions. * * *" Martin v. Creasy, 1959, 360 U.S. 219, 224, 79 S.Ct. 1034, 1037, 3 L.Ed.2d 1186.

The controversy between Idlewild and the Liquor Authority comes to the court in precisely the tentative and hypothetical posture with which Pullman and its progeny are concerned. The State Attorney General rendered an opinion and acting upon that opinion the Liquor Authority advised plaintiff that its operation is "illegal". Neither the Attorney General's opinion nor the action of the Liquor Authority has been reviewed in the State Courts.

State court interpretation of state policies is especially desirable where the...

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10 cases
  • Hostetter v. Idlewild Bon Voyage Liquor Corporation
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • June 1, 1964
    ...who retained jurisdiction pending resolution of the substantive issues by the state courts. Idlewild Bon Voyage L quor Corp. v. Rohan, D.C.N.Y., 188 F.Supp. 434. The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit dismissed on appeal on the ground that it was without jurisdiction, though expressing......
  • Idlewild Bon Voyage Liquor Corporation v. Rohan
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • April 14, 1961
    ...Judge Bicks, who denied the application for a three-judge district court, and, in effect, granted defendants' motion to dismiss (1960, 188 F.Supp. 434). The ground for Judge Bicks' action was that no state court had passed upon the constitutional issues raised, and he was of the opinion tha......
  • Idlewild Bon Voyage Liquor Corp. v. Epstein
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of New York
    • December 27, 1962
    ...retained jurisdiction while referring the cause to the state courts for determination of the issues presented. Idlewild Bon Voyage Liquor Corp. v. Rohan, D.C., 188 F.Supp. 434. An appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit was dismissed on jurisdictional grounds, one judge dissen......
  • Hines v. D'Artois
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fifth Circuit
    • May 13, 1976
    ...orders appealable because the orders have operated in practical effect as 'final' orders under § 1291. In Idlewild Bon Voyage Liquor Corp. v. Rohan, S.D.N.Y.1960, 188 F.Supp. 434, the district court denied a motion to convene a three-judge court and stayed the federal proceedings until the ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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