City of Kenosha v. Bruno

PETITIONER: City of Kenosha
LOCATION: United States Department of Agriculture

DOCKET NO.: 72-658
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)

CITATION: 412 US 507 (1973)
ARGUED: Apr 18, 1973
DECIDED: Jun 11, 1973

James A. Walrath - for appellees Sleepy's Inc. and others
Leroy L. Dalton -

Facts of the case


Media for City of Kenosha v. Bruno

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 18, 1973 in City of Kenosha v. Bruno

Warren E. Burger:

Mr. Dalton you may proceed whenever you are ready.

Leroy L. Dalton:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

This is an appeal from the three-judge District Court in the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

This case involves the liquor licenses of three bars in the City of Racine and six bars in the City of Kenosha.

Kenosha is a city of about 70,000 or more on the border of Wisconsin and Illinois, just north of Chicago.

Racine is the city of about 90,000 to 95,000 just a few miles north of Kenosha.

This appeal is from a judgment holding that Wisconsin’s statutes which permit legislative hearings in liquor license renewals and original granting are in violation of a due process clause.

The Court said that insofar as those statutes permit the denial of the renewal of licenses, granting of licenses without a judicial type hearing, the statutes violate the Fourteenth Amendment.

The judgment is so broad against these two cities that when the licensing year which is approaching arrives, these cities are enjoined from denying any renewals.

A motion is pending before the three-judge Court to modify that, but is un-acted upon.

I would like to take the Court back through our liquor licensing regulations in Wisconsin.

We have what may be compared to the old town meeting type of legislation.

Since the Twenty-first Amendment, we permit what we call local option.

That means that each of the over 7,000 local municipalities in Wisconsin have the authority to grant or not to grant licenses for the sale of beer or intoxicating liquor or both.

This is a legislative grant to these municipalities and at the present time about a 150 municipalities do not permit the total package.

There are some that permit beer, of course, the majority permit beer and liquor but there are some that permit neither.

Now, these cities, towns and villages are the ultimate authority in our state to determine whether or not beer and intoxicating liquor would be served within their borders.

Potter Stewart:

The option is exercised by the voters?

Leroy L. Dalton:

Either the voters or the governing body.

Potter Stewart:

I thought the basic option was exercised by the voters, but then that the governing body decided who to license?

Leroy L. Dalton:

The governing body can refuse to issue any licenses under our --

Potter Stewart:

They can't without the --

Leroy L. Dalton:

But there can be referendum here initiated by the voters to put the issue up to election as to whether or not there shall be.

If there is say it can be taken away, if there is not by referendum it can be granted by the voters, but then it is up to the –-

Potter Stewart:

There has to be a petitioner, a referendum petitioner?

Leroy L. Dalton:

Yes, then it's up to the governing body each year to decide which licenses will be issued.

Potter Stewart:


Leroy L. Dalton:

This is under other --

Warren E. Burger:

Under Wisconsin statutes could they have a program of saying each person gets a license for one year and just rotate it?

Would that be lawful under your structure?