The Law School Authority

Capital Cities Cable v. Crisp Case Brief

Summary of Capital Cities Cable v. Crisp
S. Ct. 1984

Relevant Facts:  OK passed a statute requiring all references to alcoholic beverages deleted from cable television signals received and transmitted within the state.  The application aimed only at wine commercials on cable programming.

Legal Issue(s): Whether OK statute, following the 21st Amendment, is in conflict with Federal regulatory cable laws,  by requiring cable television operators in that State to delete all advertisements for alcoholic beverages contained in out of state signals they re-transmit?

Court’s Holding: Yes

Procedure: Ct of App ruled in favor Respondents, holding statute is applicable under 21st Amendment over FCC regulations. S. Ct. Reversed.

Law or Rule(s):  21st – The transportation or importation into any State for delivery, or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.

Court Rationale: The 21st does not license the States to ignore their obligations under other provisions of the Constitution.  The Federal government retains authority under the Commerce Clause to regulate even interstate commerce in liquor.  The state has not attempted to directly regulate the sale or use of liquor within its borders, and therefor Federal authority prevails. The State’s regulatory aims are narrow, aimed only at wine advertisements on cable, not billboards, magazines, newspapers, etc. The purpose of the Federal law is to ensure widespread availability of diverse cable services throughout the U. S.  Under these conditions the Supremacy clause wins.

Plaintiff’s Argument: The statute only has an indirect interest at banning wine from cable television within the state, as such the interest is limited in comparison to the 1st, 14th Amendment provisions.

Defendant’s Argument: The ban was adopted pursuant to the 21st Amendment, and therefor supercedes the FCC regulation and the C. Cl.

HOSTETTER & MIDCAL TEST: The interests implicated by state regulation must be closely related to the powers reserved by the 21st notwithstanding that its requirements directly conflict with express federal policies.  The issues and interests at stake must undergo a pragmatic effort to harmonize the state and federal powers.

Pragmatic – basic, practical

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