A Washington federal judge granted the District of Columbia summary judgment yesterday in a lawsuit challenging a 2010 law that banned the sale of cigar wrappers.
U.S. District Judge Robert Wilkins found that the National Tobacco Company LP, which sued the city last February over the law, didn’t have standing to challenge the law. During a hearing yesterday, Wilkins granted the city's motion and denied the cigar manufacturer's cross-motion for summary judgment.
National Tobacco makes the Zig Zag brand of tobacco rolling papers and, according to court filings, is the fourth largest producer of these "roll your own" products. The company claimed that as a result of the 2010 law, it had lost business with local sellers in the District.
Wilkins denied the city's motion to dismiss in September, but expressed doubts at the time that National Tobacco could survive a motion for summary judgment. He did dismiss some claims from the company's lawsuit, including a charge that that law conflicted with federal law. He also denied National Tobacco's motion for a preliminary injunction.
The city had argued that because National Tobacco wasn't a direct seller, it didn't have standing to challenge the law because it would never be directly hurt by enforcement. National Tobacco had argued that it did have standing to sue over a law that would affect its "downstream" seller or consumer.
The company, in moving for summary judgment, claimed that the law violated the due process clause of the U.S. Constitution because it didn't have a valid penalty provision and was unclear about the consequences of violating the law. The city countered that the law clearly spelled out the penalties and "plainly" banned the sale of the cigar wrappers.
Wilkins didn't issue a written opinion, but announced his decision yesterday after hearing arguments.
A spokesman for the city's Office of the Attorney General declined to comment. The company's lead counsel, Raymond Castello of Shaub, Ahmuty, Citrin & Spratt in New York, could not be reached for comment today.