Appeals court delivers another blow to city's large-soda ban
The soda companies won round two in their fight to stop the Mayor Michael Bloomberg's ban on big soda, but like any prizefighter, hizzoner isn't throwing in the towel.
On Tuesday, the state Supreme Court's appellate division unanimously upheld the March ruling of state Supreme Court Justice Milton A. Tingling that struck down the city's proposed ban on large sugary drinks.
The four-judge panel agreed with Tingling that the city overstepped its boundaries with the proposed law, which was set to take effect March 12.
"Such mechanism necessarily looks beyond health concerns, in that it manipulates choices to try to change consumer norms," the judges wrote.
Bloomberg, who pushed to prohibit sugary drinks greater than 16 ounces from restaurants and other establishments, vowed Tuesday to take the case to a higher court.
"It doesn't make you feel full and it doesn't give you the nutritional values, but it does give you calories," he said. "There is no question about this."
The American Beverage Association, who along with NAACP and other groups filed a lawsuit challenging the law, agreed with the mayor's stance on obesity but said he unnecessarily singled out their products as a leading cause for the epidemic.
"We look forward to collaborating with city leaders on solutions that will have a meaningful and lasting impact on the people of New York City," the group said in a statement.
The proposal, which was approved by the city's Health Department in September, affected establishments that received a letter grade for health inspections and would fine them $200. Supermarkets were not affected because they are state regulated.
New Yorkers were mixed about the court's decision. Jessica Charles, 23, of Manhattan, agreed with the plaintiffs that the mayor was overstepping his boundaries.
"There are plenty of things that are well within his boundaries that need to be taken care of before soda," she said.
Will Blackman, 28, a manager at TGI Fridays in Midtown, however, said he didn't mind the proposal because it wouldn't affect his business too much.
"We just had to get all new cups, but we end up giving out pretty much the same amount of product simply because the refills are free," he said,
The New York Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, would be the next legal body to hear the case if the city files for an appeal.
Rick Hills, a NYU law professor who has been closely following the case, said the mayor's appeal would be difficult because of the back to back decisions against the city.
"When Tingling ruled, I thought he was stretching his judicial powers but now that the appellate decision ruled in his favor I think there is something in the air that has courts against this ban," he said.
Hills noted that the big legal issue isn't the specifics of the ban, rather the fact that the mayor didn't run it by the City Council first.
"Courts are feeling this an unusual and paternalistic rule," he said.
(with Morgan Ribera)
The long road of the soda ban
May 30, 2012: Mayor Michael Bloomberg announces his plan to prohibit the sale of sugary drinks served in city establishments that receive Health Department letter grades.
June 12, 2012: The Health Department formally introduces proposal and accepts public feedback.
July 24, 2012: Dozens of New Yorkers, from both sides of the soda ban aisle, come out to a public hearing to express their opinions.
September 13, 2012: The Health Department’s board approves the proposal with a 8-0 vote and give restaurants a six-month period to prepare for the new regulations.
October 12, 2012: Several groups file a lawsuit against the city.
March 11, 2013: A day before the ban was set to go into effect, a State Supreme Court Judge rules against the city calling the proposal “arbitrary and capricious.”
June 11, 2013: The city and soda companies argue their cases before Appeals Court judges.
July 30, 2013: The Appeals Court upholds the lower court’s decision.