September 25, 2013 4th Circuit published opinion

Education Media Company at Virginia Tech, Incorporated v Insley

Virginia bans alcohol advertisements in student newspapers. Company sued challenging the ban. It prevailed initially on facial unconstitutionality, but, that judgment was reversed by a 4th Circuit panel. On remand, the district court granted summary judgment to Virginia. The panel, 2-1, reversed. The majority held that the first three elements of Central Hudson were met because the advertisements were commercial in nature, truthful and not misleading, preventing underage drinking and alcohol abuse is an important government interest and the panel was bound by the earlier determination that the ban advances the state’s interests. However, the majority held that as applied here, the regulation was more extensive than necessary as most of the papers readers were over 21 and were deprived of truthful information about alcohol which they are allowed to consume. The majority reasoned that Virginia was not allowed to keep those readers in the dark for their own good.  The dissent argued that the ban was reasonable as a part of a comprehensive program to reduce alcohol abuse including underage drinking and should therefore be upheld.

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