44 Liquormart, Inc. v. Rhode Island Case Brief

Summary of 44 Liquormart, Inc. v. Rhode Island, 517 U.S. 484 (1996)

Facts: Petitioners are 44 Liquor and Peoples Liquor stores (RI licenses retailers). Peoples operate in Mass. as well and sells to RI customers. Peoples advertise its prices in MA, but not RI b/c its not allowed in RI. 1991 44 placed an ad in RI newspaper and competitors complained. The ad did not state a price, but a bargain price cold have been inferred from the ad. “WOW”

Issue(s): Whether RI’s ban against alcoholic beverage pricing ads, when accurate, constitutes an UnConst’l infringement of the 1st Amend?

Holding: Yes, Rhode Island’s statutory total prohibition against advertising to the public accurate information about retail prices of alcoholic beverages is invalid.

Procedure: RI Liquor Control Administrator assessed $400 fine b/c of implied price ad. 44 paid fine and filed Fed action seeking Declaratory judgment that 2 statutes violate 1st Amend. D Ct held UnConst’l; Ct of App Reversed. U.S.S.Ct. Reversed .

Rule(s): 1st, 14th, and 21st Amendments.

Rationale: Banning accurate pricing information abridges a form of speech protected by the 1st and that ban is not shielded by the 21st Amend.

Regs that total suppress Comm Speech requires “special care" and should not be approved unless the speech itself was flawed in some way–deceptive or unlawful.

Just b/c a message proposes a Comm Transaction does not by itself require Const’l analysis where States have total power to ban.

IF Reg seeks to protect consumers from deceptive or illegal advertising its purpose justifies less stringent standard of review. But if a complete ban on truthful and legal the standard is heightened b/c of the attendant dangers. Govt purpose in keeping all truthful information out of the public debate is suspect.

RI has enacted a total ban, and that ban serves an end unrelated to consumer protection.

Govt BoP Reg will advance Int and do so in a material Degree. Will ban on price ads for alcohol significantly reduce alcohol consumption? No evidence submitted.

Even under less strict standard the ban fails b/c state didn’t show Reasonable Fit btwn restriction of speech and temperance.

There is no Vice Exception to Comm Speech Doctrine under the 1st Amend and St Legis’r do not have broad deference to suppress truthful, non-misleading information.

Greater powers do include lesser ones, but ST power to regulate Comm activity is not Greater than the power to Ban truthful, non-misleading Commercial Speech. Under the 1st attempts to regulate speech are more dangerous than regulation of conduct–Govt may not attempt to suppress speech as easily as conduct.

21st Amend cannot be used as a tool to limit 1st Amend protections.

Df’s A: (RI) All Comm Speech Regs are subject to same standard of review b/c they target a similar category of expression. Price Ad’g bans are valid b/c Regs directly advance St Subst’l Int. in promoting Temperance and it is no more extensive than necessary. Ban on price ads to promote temperance is a matter of legis choice and deference should be given b/c states have power to ban alcohol–“vice" exception. Greater power to completely ban alcohol, includes lesser power to ban advertising re: alcohol.



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