The Obsolescence of Blue Laws in the 21st Century

Details

Author(s):
  • Ira P. Robbins
Publish Date:
2022
Publication Title:
Stanford Law & Policy Review
Format:
Volume 33 Issue 2 Pages 289-334
Citation(s):
  • Ira P. Robbins, The Obsolescence of Blue Laws in the 21st Century, 33 Stan. L & Pol'y Rev. 289 (2022).

Abstract

Depending on where in the United States one is located on any given Sunday or Christian holiday, it is against the law to buy a beer or a car, go shopping, hunt, or even play Bingo. This prohibition is a direct result of Blue Laws, alternatively called Sunday Closing Laws or Lord’s Day Acts. Blue Laws frustrate commerce and recreational activities. While at one time they might have aligned with societal values or served a practical secular purpose, such as providing workers with a day of rest, modern society renders Blue Laws obsolete and nonsensical.

Due to rapid change in societal opinion regarding religion and liquor, many states have already repealed and chipped away at liquor Blue Laws over the last decade. Modern developments in technology have also changed the way consumers shop. Consequently, Sunday Closing Laws do not effectively curb Sunday commerce, but instead assure that brick-and-mortar shops and automobile lots unfairly bear the burden of these restrictions. While Blue Laws have previously survived First and Fourteenth Amendment challenges, they have become increasingly constitutionally suspect, as they are riddled with exceptions urged by special interest groups. Moreover, federal regulatory schemes more effectively accomplish the secular goals of Blue Laws. The doctrine of desuetude further complicates the issue, given the conspicuous lack of enforcement. Due to the legally suspect basis, the development of societal mores and technology in the twenty-first century, the benefits to legislators and the judiciary in time saved, the benefits to consumers and retailers in convenience and additional profit, and the benefit to the state in increased economic activity and tax revenue, states should repeal Blue Laws across the board.