Court reaffirms decision to allow ban on billboards
MARYLAND–In mid-November, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond (4th Cir.) upheld its earlier decisions to let stand a Baltimore ban on billboard alcohol and tobacco advertising in areas where minors are likely to see them.
The U.S. Supreme Court had vacated the appellate court’s earlier decisions in the two separate lawsuits and remanded them for further consideration in light of the high court’s May decision in 44 Liquormart v. Rhode Island. That case held that a state’s interest in discouraging alcohol consumption does not justify restrictions on truthful commercial speech unless they directly advance a substantial state interest.
In a 2-1 decision, the appellate court said that the Liquormart case did not require them to change their ruling, concluding that the ban of outdoor advertising in limited areas “directly and materially advances Baltimore’s interest in promoting the welfare and temperance of minors” and therefore is a constitutionally allowable restriction on speech.
The court also stated that although the law at issue in Liquormart restricted advertising of the price of alcoholic beverages in the entire state of Rhode Island, the two cases before it dealt only with outdoor advertising that would be likely to be seen by children, merely restricting the place and manner of such advertisements.
A dissenting judge stated that the district court’s judgment should be vacated and the cases should be remanded for evidentiary hearings. (Penn Advertising of Baltimore v. Baltimore; Anheuser-Busch v. Schmoke, Advertisers’ Counsel: Eric Rubin, Washington, D.C.)