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Virginia Ban on Alcohol Advertisements in Student Publications May Reach SCOTUS

Stay tuned for what could be another exciting Supreme Court case relative to alcohol regulation. The American Civil Liberties Union (“ACLU”) asked the Supreme Court to review The Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board’s ban of ads in student publications that promote beer, wine, or mixed drinks (unless part of a larger advertisement promoting a restaurant). The two newspapers, The Cavalier Daily at the University of Virginia and The Collegiate Times at Virginia Tech, challenging the ban in coordination with the ACLU estimate that the ban could cost them up to $30,000.00 in lost revenue.

The ban was overruled by a United States District Court in 2008, but the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the ban last April. In doing so, the Court cited a link between the restricted advertising and reduced binge drinking. (See VA Bans Alcohol Ads in College Papers.) In its request for certiorari, the ACLU argues that the link does not exist and the ban instead violates constitutional grounds and contends that this is supported by a prior case decided by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in 2004.

The 2004 decision involved the University of Pittsburgh student paper, which challenged a criminal law of Pennsylvania called Act 199. The Act prohibited the publication of advertisements in student publications that mentioned alcohol and violators of the Act were subject to fines and possible time in jail. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals declared the Act unconstitutional, in violation of the First Amendment. (View the full decision at The Pitt News v. Pappert.) (And an additional recount of the decision is viewable at Student Press Law Center.)

Who was the author of the Court’s “landmark” decision? The present Justice Samuel Alito (of the Supreme Court).

(Source: ACLU Asks Supreme Court to Review VA Ban on Alcohol Ads.)

DISCLAIMER: This blog post is not intended as legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship results. Please consult your own attorney for legal advice.


Lindsey A. Zahn


Lindsey is the founder and author of On Reserve: A Wine Law Blog. She is an alcohol beverage and food attorney and is admitted to the New York State Bar.

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