Case against ABC Board argued in federal court in Richmond today.Richmond, VA -- The ACLU of Virginia today asked a federal court in Richmond to strike down a Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control restriction on alcohol advertisements in student newspapers.
ACLU legal director Rebecca Glenberg argued that the ban violates the free speech rights of student newspapers and unfairly denies them a source of income available to non-student newspapers.
“We’re not questioning the ABC board’s right to regulate alcohol, nor are we saying it shouldn’t be concerned about student drinking,” said ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis, “but the state cannot suppress the free speech rights of college newspapers by subjecting them to arbitrary restrictions not imposed on other newspapers.”
According to Glenberg, there is no empirical research showing that the ban on advertising reduces student alcohol consumption, while there is ample evidence that other techniques do, particularly raising taxes on alcohol products and “counter advertising” in student papers.
“What is most puzzling about this case,” added Willis, “is that the ABC board now knows how to fix the constitutional problems with its regulations and how to start addressing the student drinking problem -- yet they do neither.”
The ACLU represents Collegiate Times and Cavalier Daily, the student newspapers at Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia, respectively. Both newspapers are supported almost entirely by advertising revenues.
The ACLU’s challenge is similar to a case brought in 2004 by the University of Pittsburgh’s student paper, Pitt News. Pitt News prevailed when a federal appeals court held that a ban on alcohol advertising violated the freedom of the press because it unjustifiably imposed a burden on media associated with colleges, but not on other media. The opinion in that case was written by now Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.
The Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board prohibits the advertisement of beer, wine, and mixed drinks in college student publications. The case, Educational Media Company at Virginia Tech v. Swecker, was argued before U.S. Magistrate Judge Hannah Lauck in Richmond. In addition to Glenberg, Frank M. Feibelman provided legal representation to the plaintiffs.
Contact: Kent Willis, Executive Director , Office: (804) 644-8022