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Judge rules NM can take US's liquor license

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Judge rules NM can take US's liquor license

Old 10-01-2009, 11:02 AM
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Default Judge rules NM can take US's liquor license

Judge: NM can yank US Airways' liquor license

Federal judge rejects US Airways' effort to serve liquor on New Mexico flights

By Tim Korte, Associated Press Writer

On Thursday October 1, 2009, 2:43 pm EDT

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -- A federal judge has ruled New Mexico officials can keep US Airways from serving alcohol on its New Mexico flights after a passenger caused a drunken-driving crash that killed five people.

US Airways sued the state in 2007 after the New Mexico Regulation and License Department denied its application for a liquor license.

The judge's ruling means US Airways cannot serve alcohol on flights while its aircraft are over New Mexico or while grounded in the state.

Kelly O'Donnell, the department's superintendent, said Thursday she was "gratified and satisfied" by the decision.

"It is a victory, a huge victory, for public safety here in New Mexico and for other states that want to ensure their liquor laws are upheld by everybody who is selling liquor within their borders," O'Donnell said.

The Tempe, Ariz.-based airline argued that New Mexico has no authority to regulate on-board alcohol service, require alcohol training or enforce sanctions against the carrier because the state is pre-empted by federal law.

However, in a 24-page opinion issued late Wednesday, U.S. District Judge M. Christina Armijo in Albuquerque found that neither the Airline Deregulation Act nor the Federal Aviation Act can pre-empt state liquor control laws.

A spokeswoman for US Airways Group Inc. said the airline was reviewing the ruling and had no immediate comment.

Armijo cited two reasons the state has the authority to control the airline's distribution of alcohol.

First, she found New Mexico has "concurrent jurisdiction with the federal government over events occurring in its airspace."

Second, Armijo determined that even without such jurisdiction, New Mexico has the authority to regulate liquor moving through its territory and can take steps to prevent "unlawful diversion" of alcohol into its regulated market.

US Airways argued that the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 gave the U.S. Department of Transportation exclusive authority to regulate all aspects of airline safety.

The airline also argued it wasn't subject to New Mexico liquor laws because alcohol is loaded onto aircraft in Arizona, served only during flights, and cannot be removed from the airplanes.

In denying US Airways' liquor license, the New Mexico Regulation and License Department said it "cannot reasonably find that approval of application will protect the public health and safety or that it is in the public interest."

State regulators had twice cited US Airways for overserving passengers.
The most visible case involved Dana Papst, who was drinking on a US Airways flight into Albuquerque in November 2006.

Papst later caused a wrong-way crash on Interstate 25 near Santa Fe, killing himself and five members of a family from Las Vegas, N.M. Passengers told investigators he had been served two drinks on the flight despite already appearing intoxicated.

O'Donnell said the 21st Amendment provides the right to distribute and sell alcohol, but it comes with a responsibility to do it responsibly.

"The circumstances surrounding this case were tragic, but if we are to prevent that sort of thing from happening again, we must have the regulatory tools necessary for enforcement," she said.
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Old 10-01-2009, 12:56 PM
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Where has personal accountability gone....
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Old 10-01-2009, 01:27 PM
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I suspect that this will be overturned on appeal. It pretty much HAS to be, because right now, this ruling allows the state of New Mexico to control overflying aircraft's liquor serving rules. ("This is the captain speaking. F/A's please discontinue service as we fly over New Mexico" )

This would lead to CHAOS. With this precedent, every state in the union can begin writing their own liquor rules for aircraft in "their" airspace. Airlines will have to negotiate on a state-by-state basis.

Will we now have a checklist to compare aircraft position-to-state liquor laws, and notify the flight attendants accordingly?

If states can negotiate this, what else can impose on airlines in "their" airspace? I SMELL TAXES, FEES, CARBON OFFSET COSTS, etc. as state revenue generators.

There's simply no way this decision will stand on appeal.

Last edited by deltabound; 10-01-2009 at 02:20 PM.
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Old 10-01-2009, 01:29 PM
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One other thing: this story failed to mention that the passenger in question stopped in a bar (or was drinking in the car, I can't remember exactly) for additional booze after the flight but before the crash.

I remember this case because it was so outrageous when it was first reported.

B.S. was right - - - "Kill all the lawyers"
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Old 10-01-2009, 01:40 PM
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Talk about redefining a "nanny state"! . . .

Just how would they enforce that anyway? Somebody from the liquor control board sitting in the cabin at 35,000 feet looking out the window saying, "Nope, not yet . . . according to my sectional chart here, we have not crossed out of the state of New Mexico!"
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Old 10-01-2009, 05:35 PM
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Since when did states start regulating what happens in Federal airspace? Why the hell did Airways apply for a liqour license in the first place?
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Old 10-01-2009, 06:01 PM
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Some 30-40 years ago, Stewards and Stewardesses halted beverage service overflying Kansas (at that time a dry state).

Blue laws are the silliest, strangest, and most outdated.
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