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Law School Case Brief

44 Liquormart v. Rhode Island - 39 F.3d 5 (1st Cir. 1994)


The burden is on the party seeking suppression to show that a commercial speech regulation directly advances asserted substantial government interests. The term "directly advances" is not absolute and, while the state has the burden, there is an added presumption in favor of the validity of the state regulation in this area that the 21st Amendment requires. Historically, the state has failed where the evidence was at most, tenuous, such as where the evidence consisted of unsupported assertions, with a lack of authority of any kind or studies, relying on anecdotal evidence. Warrantable inferences, however, may be sufficient. 


To promote temperance and the reasonable control of alcohol sales, defendant State of Rhode Island set restrictions in the sale of alcohol. Particularly, the restrictions prohibited advertising the price of intoxicating liquor, except at the place of sale if sold within the state. Plaintiff 44 Liquormart and another liquor store filed an action in federal district court challenging the constitutionality the law. The district court entered judgment for plaintiffs, finding the advertising restrictions violated the First Amendment. The State and intervenor association appealed. 


Were the advertising restrictions violative of the First Amendment?




The appellate court reversed the lower court's judgment that the advertising restrictions violated of the First Amendment. The court ruled that the restrictions were presumed valid in light of U.S. Const. amend. XXI and plaintiffs failed to rebut the purposes of the law. Applying the Central Hudson test for commercial speech, the court ruled that plaintiffs' rights were outweighed by the substantial government interests asserted in § 3-1-5, which were directly advanced by the restrictions, which, in turn, were no more extensive than necessary to serve those interests.

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