WASHINGTON - Cast in the good-guy role of stopping Internet cigarette sales to children, Maine's deputy attorney general got roughed up yesterday by several Supreme Court justices who suggested the law is not on his side.
Maine's deputy attorney general, Paul Stern, argued that Maine is trying to keep tobacco out the hands of underage smokers and that it needs the help of companies that deliver cigarettes bought over the Internet.
Stern argued for the state's right to regulate shipment of cigarettes purchased over the Internet.
Shipping industry associations are challenging Maine's law, saying only the federal government can impose delivery requirements.
Federal law bars states from regulating prices, routes, or services of shipping companies and Maine's law "certainly relates to the service" of the shipping companies, said Chief Justice John Roberts.
Justice Stephen Breyer said it would be a "nightmare" if every state were to pass a different law on what it takes to prove that a shipping company knowingly delivered an unlicensed product.