Family Wins Massachusetts Case


In a sweeping decision issued November 19, the U.S. District Court for Massachusetts granted Family Winemakers of California's motion for summary judgment and ruled that the state's production cap law was unconstitutional.  This is the first court victory on the issue of state efforts to impose market entry barriers for wineries based on production size.  In Massachusetts, the 30,000 gallon barrier has been rendered illegal.  The state will be barred from enforcing Section 19F of the Massachusetts General Laws.
The next step is for Kirkland & Ellis, on behalf of the Family to work with the court in fashioning a remedy order. Once the order is entered the state will be open for shipping since the permit system can't be enforced.  We've started inquiries with the carriers about their response.
The state has 30 days from the date of the order to decide if it will appeal the decision.  While we expect that there will pressure from the wholesalers to do this Judge Zobel's decision doesn't appear to leave much room for argument.  The Family blanketed the media with a press release following the ruling.  Reaction has been positive.  One Bay Stater emailed us the following.  "As a resident of Massachusetts, I wanted to say THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for pursing this case though the court system!  I am very excited that I will finally be able to have wine shipped directly to my house."
Victory came after two years and two months of effort.  Aside from the splendid work of Kirkland & Ellis attorneys Ken Starr, Tracy Genesen, Micah Osgood Zackary Lyons and Megan Rodkin, Family Winemakers of California v. Jenkins showed that building a case with a strong evidentiary record is essential.  Reading the decision showed how much the court relied on the evidence to conclude that the law was discriminatory in purpose and effect.  We also should acknowledge the expertise provided by Barbara Insel that helped nail down key economic arguments about the Massachusetts wine market, the financial support provided by the Coalition for Free Trade, the media support by FreeTheGrapes!, and the assistance of Carol Martel, Wine Institute's lobbyist for the Bay State.