Liquormart Inc. V. Rhode Island

Topics: Supreme Court of the United States, Antonin Scalia, First Amendment to the United States Constitution Pages: 8 (2950 words) Published: November 14, 2013

Liquormart Inc. V. Rhode Island
In the United Sates there have always been many controversies about both the selling and consuming of alcoholic beverages. From decades ago the topic of alcohol was still being discussed on whether or not it should be complete banned or more closely regulated. Alcohol is a very dangerous substance when mistreated. Alcohol laws are to protect both an individual person and the people in a society. When it comes to alcohol and how it should be regulated people’s views and opinions are extremely versatile and will continue to be as the years go on.

In 1956, in the state of Rhode Island the legislation passed two bills which had prohibited the advertisement of the alcoholic beverage prices. The first bill prevented both in and out of state manufacturers, wholesalers, and even shippers from advertising the prices of any alcoholic beverages that were to be sold in Rhode Island. The second bill was about the news media, there were to be no references of any kind about the prices of beverages with alcohol content in any situation (Costello, Sean P, 1997). Four decades had passed and still Rhode Island ban on advertising prices of alcoholic beverages continued. The only exeption of this ban is price tags and signs can be in the windows of the liquor stores (Sullivan M. Kathleen, 1997).

On December 17, 1991 the Rhode Island liquor Control Administrator Kate Racine held a hearing to try and figure out whether a Rhode Island retail dealer of alcoholic beverages had violated the state’s law of no advertisements on liquor prices. Sullivan states “In Liquormart, two discount liquor retailers challenged the statutes in federal district court. One of them had been assessed a $ 400 fine for running a newspaper ad that did not print any liquor prices, but that did print low prices for snacks and mixers while running the word "WOW" beside pictures of rum and vodka bottles. The district court declared the advertising ban invalid under the First Amendment, finding that it "'has no significant impact on levels of alcohol consumption in Rhode Island.'" The First Circuit reversed, holding that the advertising ban necessarily would reduce liquor purchase and consumption by discouraging price competition that would lower prices and so increase the volume of sales” (Sullivan M. Kathleen, 1997). After Kate Racine had determined that these acts did in fact violate Rhode Island’s law, Racine then fined 44 liquormart and demanded to discontinue the ads. 44 Liquormart paid the 400 dollar fine and decided to file a suit in federal district court, which stated a violation of the First Amendment, the right to free speech (Costello, Sean P, 1997).

When the case started in the lower court system it was experts against experts in the case. “The state defended the statute on the ground that it was designed to promote temperance by "directly reducing the consumption of alcohol" by Rhode Island citizens. To show that its advertising ban would have this effect, the state called upon the expert testimony of an economist who stated that countries that ban "all broadcast advertising of alcohol had the lowest values for alcohol consumption. The challengers presented two expert witnesses of their own who, predictably, came to conclusions contrary to the state's expert. Both concluded that while total advertising bans may have some effect, restrictions on price advertising have no significant effect on alcohol consumption. The trial court found the challengers' expert testimony more persuasive than that of the defendants. Initially the trial court noted "a pronounced lack of unanimity among researchers who have studied the effects of alcohol advertising. No less than twelve different conclusions have been reached regarding the impact of advertising on the general consumption of alcoholic beverages. Even though the evidence pointed in two different directions, the Court concluded that the price ban had no significant impact on...
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