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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.


Plaintiffs 44 Liquormart, Inc. and Peoples Super Liquor Stores, Inc. brought an action in federal district court against defendants State of Rhode Island and others challenging the constitutionality of R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 3-8-7 and 3-8-8.1, which prohibited advertising the price of intoxicating liquor, except at the place of sale, if sold within the State. The purpose of the restrictions, set out in R.I. Gen. Laws § 3-1-5, was to promote temperance and the reasonable control of alcohol sales. Defendant Rhode Island Liquid Stores Association (Association) intervened as a defendant. The district court entered judgment for plaintiffs, finding the advertising restrictions violative of the First Amendment. The State and Association appealed.


Was the statutory ban on advertising the price of alcoholic beverages unconstitutional?




In reversing, the appellate court ruled that the restrictions were presumed valid in light of U.S. Const. amend. XXI, and plaintiffs failed to rebut the purposes of § 3-1-5. Applying the Central Hudson test for commercial speech, the appellate court ruled that the 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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