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CRS Annotated Constitution

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FIRST AMENDMENT
RELIGION AND EXPRESSION
FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION—SPEECH AND PRESS

Governmental Regulation of Communications Industries

As in the previous section, the governmental regulations here considered may have only the most indirect relation to freedom of expression, or may clearly implicate that freedom even though the purpose of the particular regulation is not to reach the content of the message. First, however, the judicially–formulated doctrine distinguishing commercial expression from other forms is briefly considered.

Commercial Speech.—In recent years, the Court’s treatment of “commercial speech” has undergone a transformation, from total nonprotection under the First Amendment to qualified protection. The conclusion that expression proposing a commercial transaction is a different order of speech was arrived at almost casually in Val[p.1114]entine v. Chrestensen,1 in which the Court upheld a city ordinance prohibiting distribution on the street of “commercial and business advertising matter,” as applied to an exhibitor of a submarine who distributed leaflets describing his submarine on one side and on the other side protesting the city’s refusal of certain docking facilities. The doctrine was in any event limited to promotion of commercial activities; the fact that expression was disseminated for profit or through commercial channels did not expose it to any greater regulation than if it were offered for free.2 The doctrine lasted in this form for more than twenty years.

“Commercial speech,” the Court has held, is protected “from unwarranted governmental regulation,” although its nature makes such communication subject to greater limitations than can be imposed on expression not solely related to the economic interests of the speaker and its audience.3 Overturning of this exception in free expression doctrine was accomplished within a brief span of time in which the Justices haltingly but then decisively moved to a new position. Reasserting the doctrine at first in a narrow five–to–four decision, the Court sustained the application of a city’s ban on employment discrimination to bar sex–designated employment advertising in a newspaper.4 Granting that speech does not lose its constitutional protection simply because it appears in a commercial context, Justice Powell, for the Court, found the placing of want–ads in newspapers to be “classic examples of commercial speech,” devoid of expressions of opinions with respect to issues of social policy; the ad “did no more than propose a commercial transaction.” But the Justice also noted that employment discrimination, which was facilitated by the advertisements, was itself illegal.5

[p.1115]

Next, the Court overturned a conviction under a state statute making it illegal, by sale or circulation of any publication, to encourage or prompt the obtaining of an abortion, as applied to an editor of a weekly newspaper who published an advertisement announcing the availability of legal and safe abortions in another State and detailing the assistance that would be provided state residents in going to and obtaining abortions in the other State.6 The Court discerned that the advertisements conveyed information of other than a purely commercial nature, that they related to services that were legal in the other jurisdiction, and that the State could not prevent its residents from obtaining abortions in the other State or punish them for doing so.

Then, all these distinctions were swept away as the Court voided a statute declaring it unprofessional conduct for a licensed pharmacist to advertise the prices of prescription drugs.7 Accepting a suit brought by consumers to protect their right to receive information, the Court held that speech that does no more than propose a commercial transaction is nonetheless of such social value as to be entitled to protection. Consumers’ interests in receiving factual information about prices may even be of greater value than political debate, but in any event price competition and access to information about it is in the public interest. State interests asserted in support of the ban, protection of professionalism and the quality of prescription goods, were found either badly served or not served by the statute.8

Turning from the interests of consumers to receive information to the asserted right of advertisers to communicate, the Court voided several restrictions. The Court voided a municipal ordinance which barred the display of “For sale” and “Sold” signs on residential lawns, purportedly so as to limit “white flight” resulting from a “fear psychology” that developed among white residents following sale of homes to nonwhites. The right of owners to communicate their intention to sell a commodity and the right of potential buyers to receive the message was protected, the Court determined; the community interest could have been achieved by less restrictive means and in any event could not be achieved by restricting the free flow of truthful information.9 Similarly, deciding a question it had reserved in the Virginia Pharmacy case, the Court held that a State could not forbid lawyers from advertising the prices they[p.1116]charged for the performance of routine legal services.10 None of the proffered state justifications for the ban was deemed sufficient to overcome the private and societal interest in the free exchange of this form of speech.11 Nor may a state categorically prohibit attorney advertising through mailings that target persons known to face particular legal problems,12 or prohibit an attorney from holding himself out as a certified civil trial specialist.13

Supplement: [P. 1116, add to text following n.13:]

, or prohibit a certified public accountant from holding herself out as a certified financial planner.96

However, a State has been held to have a much greater countervailing interest in regulating person–to–person solicitation of clients by attorneys; therefore, especially since in–person solicitation is “a business transaction in which speech is an essential but subordinate component,” the state interest need only be important rather than compelling.14

Supplement: [P. 1116, add to text following n.14:]

The Court later refused, however, to extend this principle to in–person solicitation by certified public accountants, explaining that CPAs, unlike attorneys, are not professionally “trained in the art of persuasion,” and that the typical business executive client of a CPA is “far less susceptible to manipulation” than was the accident victim in Ohralik.97 To allow enforcement of such a broad prophylactic rule absent identification of a serious problem such as ambulance chasing, the Court explained, would dilute commercial speech protection “almost to nothing.” 98

Moreover, a statute prohibiting the practice of optometry under a trade name was sustained because there was “a significant possibility” that the public might be misled through deceptive utilization of the same or similar trade names.15 But a state regulatory commission prohibition of utility advertisements “intended to stimulate the purchase of utility services” was held unjustified by the asserted interests in energy consumption and avoidance of subsidization of additional energy costs by all consumers.16

While commercial speech is entitled to First Amendment protection, the Court has clearly held that it is not wholly undifferentiable from other forms of expression; it has remarked on the commonsense differences between speech that does no more[p.1117]than propose a commercial transaction and other varieties.17 Initially, the Court developed a four–pronged test to measure the validity of restraints upon commercial expression. Recent indications are that the Court has relaxed aspects of the test, making it more deferential to governmental regulation.

Under the first prong of the test as originally formulated, certain commercial speech is not entitled to protection; the informational function of advertising is the First Amendment concern and if it does not accurately inform the public about lawful activity, it can be suppressed.18

Second, if the speech is protected, the interest of the government in regulating and limiting it must be assessed. The State must assert a substantial interest to be achieved by restrictions on commercial speech.19

[p.1118]

Third, the restriction cannot be sustained if it provides only ineffective or remote support for the asserted purpose.20

Supplement: [P. 1118, add to text following n.20:]

Instead, the regulation must “directly advance” the governmental interest. The Court resolves this issue with reference to aggregate effects, and does not limit its consideration to effects on the challenging litigant.99

Fourth, if the governmental interest could be served as well by a more limited restriction on commercial speech, the excessive restriction cannot survive.21 The Court has rejected the idea that a “least restrictive means” test is required. Instead, what is now required is a “reasonable fit” between means and ends, with the means “narrowly tailored to achieve the desired objective.”22

Thus, the “different degree of protection” accorded commercial speech means that government need not tolerate inaccuracies to the same extent it must in other areas and it may require that a commercial message appear in such a form, or include such additional information, warnings, and disclaimers, as are necessary to prevent it being deceptive.23 Somewhat broader times, places, and manner regulations are to be tolerated.24 The rule against prior re[p.1119]straints may be inapplicable25 and disseminators of commercial speech are not protected by the overbreadth doctrine.26 Whether government may ban all commercial advertising of a service or product that is legal to sell is a matter of current debate. In Posadas de Puerto Rico Associates v. Tourism Co. of Puerto Rico,27 the Court upheld a Puerto Rico ban on advertising of casino gambling aimed at residents, who nonetheless were not prohibited from engaging in casino gambling. The advertising ban was far from complete, however, since ads aimed at the lucrative tourist trade were still permitted. In any event, courts must now analyze with some care regulations of and limitations on commercial expression, the demise of the exception permitting easy resolution no longer.28


Footnotes

1 316 U.S. 52 (1942) . See also Breard v. City of Alexandria, 341 U.S. 622 (1951) . The doctrine was one of the bases upon which the banning of all commercials for cigarettes from radio and television was upheld. Capital Broadcasting Co. v. Mitchell, 333 F. Supp. 582 (D.D.C. 1971) (three–judge court), aff’d per curiam, 405 U.S. 1000 (1972) .
2 Books that are sold for profit, Smith v. California, 361 U.S. 147, 150 (1959) ; Ginzburg v. United States, 383 U.S. 463, 474–75 (1966) , advertisements dealing with political and social matters which newspapers carry for a fee, New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 265–66 (1964) , motion pictures which are exhibited for an admission fee, United States v. Paramount Pictures, 334 U.S. 131, 166 (1948) ; Joseph Burstyn, Inc. v. Wilson, 343 U.S. 495, 501–02 (1952) , were all during this period held entitled to full First Amendment protection regardless of the commercial element involved.
3 Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp. v. Public Service Comm’n, 447 U.S. 557, 561 (1980) .
4 Pittsburgh Press Co. v. Comm’n on Human Relations, 413 U.S. 376 (1973) .
5 Id. at 385, 389. The Court continues to hold that government may ban commercial speech related to illegal activity. Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp. v. Public Service Comm’n, 447 U.S. 557, 563–64 (1980) .
6 Bigelow v. Virginia, 421 U.S. 809 (1975) .
7 Virginia State Bd. of Pharmacy v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, 425 U.S. 748 (1976) . Justice Rehnquist dissented. Id. at 781.
8 Id. at 763–64 (consumers’ interests), 764–65 (social interest), 766–70 (justifications for the ban).
9 Linmark Ass’n v. Township of Willingboro, 431 U.S. 85 (1977) .
10 Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, 433 U.S. 350 (1977) . Chief Justice Burger and Justices Powell, Stewart, and Rehnquist dissented. Id. at 386, 389, 404.
11 Id. at 368–79. See also In re R.M.J., 455 U.S. 191 (1982) (invalidating sanctions imposed on attorney for deviating in some respects from rigid prescriptions of advertising style and for engaging in some proscribed advertising practices, because the State could show neither that his advertising was misleading nor that any substantial governmental interest was served by the restraints).
12 Shapero v. Kentucky Bar Ass’n, 486 U.S. 466 (1988) .

Supplement: [P. 1116, add to n.12:]

Shapero was distinguished in Florida Bar v. Went For It, Inc., 515 U.S. 618 (1995) , a 5 to 4 decision upholding a prohibition on targeted direct–mail solicitations to victims and their relatives for a 30–day period following an accident or disaster. “Shapero dealt with a broad ban on all direct mail solicitations” (id. at 629), the Court explained, and was not supported, as Florida’s more limited ban was, by findings describing the harms to be prevented by the ban. Dissenting Justice Kennedy disagreed that there was a valid distinction, pointing out that in Shapero the Court had said that “the mode of communication [mailings versus potentially more abusive in–person solicitation] makes all the difference,” and that mailings were at issue in both Shapero and Florida Bar. 515U.S. at 637 515U.S. at 637 (quoting Shapero, 486U.S. at 475 486U.S. at 475).

13 Peel v. Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Comm’n, 496 U.S. 91 (1990) .
14 Ohralik v. Ohio State Bar Ass’n, 436 U.S. 447 (1978) . But compare In re Primus, 426 U.S. 412 (1978) . The distinction between in– person and other attorney advertising was continued in Zauderer v. Office of Disciplinary Counsel, 471 U.S. 626 (1985) (“print advertising . . . in most cases . . . will lack the coercive force of the personal presence of the trained advocate”).
15 Friedman v. Rogers, 440 U.S. 1 (1979) .
16 Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp. v. Public Service Comm’n, 447 U.S. 557 (1980) . See also Consolidated Edison Co. v. Public Service Comm’n, 447 U.S. 530 (1980) (voiding a ban on utility’s inclusion in monthly bills of inserts discussing controversial issues of public policy). However, the linking of a product to matters of public debate does not thereby entitle an ad to the increased protection afforded noncommercial speech. Bolger v. Youngs Drug Products Corp., 463 U.S. 60 (1983) .
17 Commercial speech is viewed by the Court as usually hardier than other speech; because advertising is the sine qua non of commercial profits, it is less likely to be chilled by regulation. Thus, the difference inheres in both the nature of the speech and the nature of the governmental interest. Virginia State Bd. of Pharmacy v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, 425 U.S. 748, 771–72 n.24 (1976) ; Ohralik v. Ohio State Bar Ass’n, 436 U.S. 447, 455–56 (1978) . It is, of course, important to develop distinctions between commercial speech and other speech for purposes of determining when broader regulation is permissible. The Court’s definitional statements have been general, referring to commercial speech as that “proposing a commercial transaction,” Ohralik v. Ohio State Bar Ass’n, supra, or as “expression related solely to the economic interests of the speaker and its audience.” Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp. v. Public Service Comm’n, 447 U.S. 557, 561 (1980) . It has simply viewed as noncommercial the advertising of views on public policy that would inhere to the economic benefit of the speaker. Consolidated Edison Co. v. Public Service Comm’n, 447 U.S. 530 (1980) . So too, the Court has refused to treat as commercial speech charitable solicitation undertaken by professional fundraisers, characterizing the commercial component as “inextricably intertwined with otherwise fully protected speech.” Riley v. National Fed’n of the Blind, 487 U.S. 781, 796 (1988) . By contrast, a mixing of home economics information with a sales pitch at a “Tupperware” party did not remove the transaction from commercial speech. Board of Trustees v. Fox, 492 U.S. 469 (1989) .
18 Central Hudson Gas & Electric Co. v. Public Service Comm’n, 447 U.S. 557, 563, 564 (1980) . Within this category fall the cases involving the possibility of deception through such devices as use of trade names, Friedman v. Rogers, 440 U.S. 1 (1979) , and solicitation of business by lawyers, Ohralik v. Ohio State Bar Ass’n, 436 U.S. 447 (1978) , as well as the proposal of an unlawful transaction, Pittsburgh Press Co. v. Comm’n on Human Relations, 413 U.S. 376 (1973) .
19 Central Hudson Gas & Electric Co. v. Public Service Comm’n, 447 U.S. 557, 564, 568–69 (1980) . The Court deemed the State’s interests to be clear and substantial. The pattern here is similar to much due process and equal protection litigation as well as expression and religion cases in which the Court accepts the proffered interests as legitimate and worthy. See also San Francisco Arts & Athletics, Inc. v. United States Olympic Comm., 483 U.S. 522 (1987) (governmental interest in protecting USOC’s exclusive use of word “Olympic” is substantial). However, in Bolger v. Youngs Drug Products Corp., 463 U.S. 60 (1983) , the Court deemed insubstantial a governmental interest in protecting postal patrons from offensive but not obscene materials. For deferential treatment of the governmental interest, see Posadas de Puerto Rico Associates v. Tourism Co. of Puerto Rico, 478 U.S. 328 (1986) (Puerto Rico’s “substantial” interest in discouraging casino gambling by residents justifies ban on ads aimed at residents even though residents may legally engage in casino gambling, and even though ads aimed at tourists are permitted).

Supplement: [P. 1117, add to n.19 following San Francisco Arts & Athletics citation:]

Rubin v. Coors Brewing Co., 514 U.S. 476 (1995) (government’s interest in curbing strength wars among brewers is substantial, but interest in facilitating state regulation of alcohol is not substantial). Contrast United States v. Edge Broadcasting Co., 509 U.S. 418 (1993) , finding a substantial federal interest in facilitating state restrictions on lotteries. “Unlike the situation in Edge Broadcasting,” the Coors Court explained, “the policies of some States do not prevent neighboring States from pursuing their own alcohol–related policies within their respective borders.” 514U.S. at 486 514U.S. at 486.

20 Id. at 569. The ban here was found to directly advance one of the proffered interests. Contrast this holding with Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, 433 U.S. 350 (1977) ; Virginia State Bd. of Pharmacy v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, 425 U.S. 748 (1976) ; and Bolger v. Youngs Drug Products Corp., 463 U.S. 60 (1983) , where the restraints were deemed indirect or ineffectual.

Supplement: [P. 1118, add to n.20 following Bolger citation:]

Rubin v. Coors Brewing Co., 514 U.S. 476 (1995) (prohibition on display of alcohol content on beer labels does not directly and materially advance government’s interest in curbing strength wars among brewers, given the inconsistencies and “overall irrationality” of the regulatory scheme); Edenfield v. Fane, 507 U.S. 761 (1993) (Florida’s ban on in–person solicitation by certified public accountants does not directly advance its legitimate interests in protecting consumers from fraud, protecting consumer privacy, and maintaining professional independence from clients).

21 Central Hudson Gas & Electric Co. v. Public Service Comm’n, 447 U.S. 557, 565, 569–71 (1980) . This test is, of course, the “least restrictive means” standard. Shelton v. Tucker, 364 U.S. 479, 488 (1960) . In Central Hudson, the Court found the ban more extensive than was necessary to effectuate the governmental purpose. And see Bolger v. Youngs Drug Products Corp., 463 U.S. 60 (1983) , where the Court held that the governmental interest in not interfering with parental efforts at controlling children’s access to birth control information could not justify a ban on commercial mailings about birth control products; “[t]he level of discourse reaching a mailbox simply cannot be limited to that which would be suitable for a sandbox.” Id. at 74. Note, however, that in San Francisco Arts & Athletics, Inc. v. United States Olympic Comm., 483 U.S. 522 (1987) , the Court applied the test in a manner deferential to Congress: “the restrictions [at issue] are not broader than Congress reasonably could have determined to be necessary to further these interests.”

Supplement: [P. 1118, add to n.21 following Bolger citation:]

Rubin v. Coors Brewing Co., 514 U.S. 476 (1995) (there are less intrusive alternatives—e.g., direct limitations on alcohol content of beer—to prohibition on display of alcohol content on beer label).

22 Board of Trustees v. Fox, 492 U.S. 469, 480 (1989)

Supplement: [P. 1118, add to n.22:]

In a 1993 opinion the Court elaborated on the difference between “reasonable fit” and least restrictive alternative. “A regulation need not be ‘absolutely the least severe that will achieve the desired end,’ but if there are numerous and obvious less–burdensome alternatives to the restriction . . . , that is certainly a relevant consideration in determining whether the ‘fit’ between ends and means is reasonable.” City of Cincinnati v. Discovery Network, Inc., 507 U.S. 410, 417 n.13 (1993) .

Supplement: [P. 1118, delete remainder of section after n.22, and add the following:]

The “reasonable fit” standard has some teeth, the Court made clear in City of Cincinnati v. Discovery Network, Inc.,100 striking down a city’s prohibition on distribution of “commercial handbills” through freestanding newsracks located on city property. The city’s aesthetic interest in reducing visual clutter was furthered by reducing the total number of newsracks, but the distinction between prohibited “commercial” publications and permitted “newspapers” bore “no relationship whatsoever” to this legitimate interest.101 The city could not, the Court ruled, single out commercial speech to bear the full onus when “all newsracks, regardless of whether they contain commercial or noncommercial publications, are equally at fault.” 102 By contrast, the Court upheld a federal law that prohibited broadcast of lottery advertisements by a broadcaster in a State that prohibits lotteries, while allowing broadcast of such ads by stations in States that sponsor lotteries. There was a “reasonable fit” between the restriction and the asserted federal interest in supporting state anti–gambling policies without unduly interfering with policies of neighboring States that promote lotteries.103 The prohibition “directly served” the congressional interest, and could be applied to a broadcaster whose principal audience was in an adjoining lottery State, and who sought to run ads for that State’s lottery.104

In 1999 the Court struck down a provision of the same statute as applied to advertisements for private casino gambling that are broadcast by radio and television stations located in a State where such gambling is legal.105 The Court emphasized the interrelatedness of the four parts of the Central Hudson test; e.g., though the government has a substantial interest in reducing the social costs of gambling, the fact that the Congress has simultaneously encouraged gambling, because of its economic benefits, makes it more difficult for the government to demonstrate that its restriction on commercial speech materially advances its asserted interest and constitutes a reasonable “fit.” In this case, “[t]he operation of [18 U.S.C.] § 1304 and its attendant regulatory regime is so pierced by exemptions and inconsistencies that the Government cannot hope to exonerate it.” 106 “[T]he regulation distinguishes among the indistinct, permitting a variety of speech that poses the same risks the Government purports to fear, while banning messages unlikely to cause any harm at all.” 107

In a 1986 decision the Court had asserted that “the greater power to completely ban casino gambling necessarily includes the lesser power to ban advertising of casino gambling.” 108 Subsequently, however, the Court has eschewed reliance on Posadas,109 and it seems doubtful that the Court would again embrace the broad principle that government may ban all advertising of an activity that it permits but has power to prohibit. Indeed, the Court’s very holding in 44 Liquormart, Inc. v. Rhode Island,110 striking down the State’s ban on advertisements that provide truthful information about liquor prices, is inconsistent with the general proposition. A Court plurality in 44 Liquormart squarely rejected Posadas, calling it “erroneous,” declining to give force to its “highly deferential approach,” and proclaiming that a State “does not have the broad discretion to suppress truthful, nonmisleading information for paternalistic purposes that the Posadas majority was willing to tolerate.” 111 Four other Justices concluded that Posadas was inconsistent with the “closer look” that the Court has since required in applying the principles of Central Hudson.112

The “different degree of protection” accorded commercial speech has a number of consequences. Somewhat broader times, places, and manner regulations are to be tolerated.113 The rule against prior restraints may be inapplicable,114 and disseminators of commercial speech are not protected by the overbreadth doctrine.115

Different degrees of protection may also be discerned among different categories of commercial speech. The first prong of the Central Hudson test means that false, deceptive, or misleading advertisements need not be permitted; government may require that a commercial message appear in such a form, or include such additional information, warnings, and disclaimers, as are necessary to prevent deception.116 But even truthful, non–misleading commercial speech may be regulated, and the validity of such regulation is tested by application of the remaining prongs of the Central Hudson test. The test itself does not make further distinctions based on the content of the commercial message or the nature of the governmental interest (that interest need only be “substantial”). Recent decisions suggest, however, that further distinctions may exist. Measures aimed at preserving “a fair bargaining process” between consumer and advertiser 117 may be more likely to pass the test 118 than regulations designed to implement general health, safety, or moral concerns.119 As the governmental interest becomes further removed from protecting a fair bargaining process, it may become more difficult to establish the absence of less burdensome regulatory alternatives and the presence of a “reasonable fit” between the commercial speech restriction and the governmental interest.120

23 Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, 433 U.S. 350, 383–84 (1977) ; Ohralik v. Ohio State Bar Ass’n, 436 U.S. 447, 456 (1978) . Requirements that advertisers disclose more information than they otherwise choose to are upheld “as long as [they] are reasonably related to the State’s interest in preventing deception of consumers,” the Court explaining that “[t]he right of a commercial speaker not to divulge accurate information regarding his services is not . . . a fundamental right” requiring strict scrutiny of the disclosure requirement. Zauderer v. Office of Disciplinary Counsel, 471 U.S. 626, 651 & n.14 (1985) (upholding requirement that attorney’s contingent fees ad mention that unsuccessful plaintiffs might still be liable for court costs).
24 Virginia State Bd. of Pharmacy v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, 425 U.S. 748, 771 (1976) ; Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, 433 U.S. 350, 384 (1977) . But in Linmark Associates v. Township of Willingboro, 431 U.S. 85, 93–94 (1977) , the Court refused to accept a times, places, and manner defense of an ordinance prohibiting “For Sale” signs on residential lawns. First, ample alternative channels of communication were not available, and second, the ban was seen rather as a content limitation.
25 Virginia State Bd. of Pharmacy v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, 425 U.S. 748, 771–72 n.24 (1976) ; Central Hudson & Electric Co. v. Public Service Comm’n, 447 U.S. 557, 571 n.13 (1980) .
26 Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, 433 U.S. 350, 379–81 (1977) ; Central Hudson Gas & Electric Co. v. Public Service Comm’n, 477 U.S. 557, 565 n.8 (1980) .
27 478 U.S. 328 (1986) . The Court’s opinion by Justice Rehnquist distinguished earlier cases (Carey and Bigelow) invalidating bans on advertisements of contraceptives and abortion services because there “the underlying conduct that was the subject of the advertising restrictions was constitutionally protected and could not have been prohibited.” Casino gambling, on the other hand, is not such protected conduct, and the Court announced a potentially sweeping principle that “the greater power to completely ban casino gambling necessarily includes the lesser power to ban advertising of casino gambling.” 478U.S. at 345–46 478U.S. at 345–46. For discussion of the case, see P. Kurland, Posadas de Puerto Rico v. Tourism Company: “’Twas Strange, ’Twas Passing Strange; ’Twas Pitiful, ’Twas Wondrous Pitiful,” 1986 Sup. Ct. Rev. 1. For qualification based on the commercial nature of speech in Posadas, see Meyer v. Grant, 486 U.S. 414, 424–25 (1988) (power to ban ballot initiatives entirely does not include power to limit discussion of political issues raised by initiative petitions).
28 Easy resolution of controversies is also made impossible by Supreme Court divisions. See, e.g., Metromedia v. City of San Diego, 453 U.S. 490 (1981) , in which the Court held unconstitutional an ordinance prohibiting billboards and other outdoor sign displays, both commercial and noncommercial, subject to a wide array of exceptions which in some respects treated noncommercial signs more severely than commercial ones. It was on the basis of the divergence of treatment that the ordinance was held to fail. Seven of the Justices appeared to endorse the view that bans on commercial billboards are permissible ways to implement the substantial governmental interests in traffic safety and aesthetics. Id. at 503–12 (plurality opinion of Justices White, Stewart, Marshall, and Powell), 540 (Justice Stevens dissenting), 555 (Chief Justice Burger dissenting), 569 (Justice Rehnquist dissenting).

Supplement Footnotes

96 Ibanez v. Florida Bd. of Accountancy, 512 U.S. 136 (1994) (also ruling that Accountancy Board could not reprimand the CPA, who was also a licensed attorney, for truthfully listing her CPA credentials in advertising for her law practice).
97 Edenfield v. Fane, 507 U.S. 761, 775 (1993) .
98 507U.S. at 777 507U.S. at 777.
99 United States v. Edge Broadcasting Co., 509 U.S. 418, 427 (1993) (“this question cannot be answered by limiting the inquiry to whether the governmental interest is directly advanced as applied to a single person or entity”).
100 507 U.S. 410 (1993) . See also Edenfield v. Fane, 507 U.S. 761 (1993) , decided the same Term, relying on the “directly advance” third prong of Central Hudson to strike down a ban on in–person solicitation by certified public accountants.
101 507U.S. at 424 507U.S. at 424.
102 507U.S. at 426 507U.S. at 426. The Court also noted the “minute” effect of removing 62 “commercial” newsracks while 1,500 to 2,000 other newsracks remained in place. Id. at 418.
103 United States v. Edge Broadcasting Co., 509 U.S. 418 (1993) .
104 508U.S. at 428 508U.S. at 428.
105 Greater New Orleans Broadcasting Ass’n, Inc. v. United States, 527 U.S. 173 (1999) .
106 527U.S. at 190 527U.S. at 190.
107 527U.S. at 195 527U.S. at 195.
108 Posadas de Puerto Rico Assocs. v. Tourism Co. of Puerto Rico, 478 U.S. 328, 345–46 (1986) . For discussion of the case, see P. Kurland, Posadas de Puerto Rico v. Tourism Company: “ ’Twas Strange, ’Twas Passing Strange; ’Twas Pitiful, ’Twas Wondrous Pitiful,” 1986 Sup. Ct. Rev. 1.
109 In Rubin v. Coors Brewing Co., 514 U.S. 476 (1995) (invalidating a federal ban on revealing alcohol content on malt beverage labels), the Court rejected reliance on Posadas, pointing out that the statement in Posadas had been made only after a determination that the advertising could be upheld under Central Hudson. The Court found it unnecessary to consider the greater–includes–lesser argument in United States v. Edge Broadcasting Co., 509 U.S. 418, 427 (1993) , upholding through application of Central Hudson principles a ban on broadcast of lottery ads.
110 517 U.S. 484 (1996) .
111 517U.S. at 510 517U.S. at 510 (opinion of Stevens, joined by Justices Kennedy, Thomas, and Ginsburg). The Stevens opinion also dismissed the Posadas “greater–includes–the–lesser argument” as “inconsistent with both logic and well– settled doctrine,” pointing out that the First Amendment “presumes that attempts to regulate speech are more dangerous than attempts to regulate conduct.” Id. at 511– 12.
112 517U.S. at 531–32 517U.S. at 531–32 (concurring opinion of O’Connor, joined by Chief Justice Rehnquist and by Justices Souter and Breyer).
113 Virginia State Bd. of Pharmacy v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, 425 U.S. 748, 771 (1976) ; Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, 433 U.S. 350, 384 (1977) . But in Linmark Associates v. Township of Willingboro, 431 U.S. 85, 93–94 (1977) , the Court refused to accept a times, places, and manner defense of an ordinance prohibiting “For Sale” signs on residential lawns. First, ample alternative channels of communication were not available, and, second, the ban was seen as a content limitation.
114 Virginia State Bd. of Pharmacy v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, 425 U.S. 748, 771–72 n.24 (1976) ; Central Hudson Gas & Electric Co. v. Public Serv. Comm’n, 447 U.S. 557, 571 n.13 (1980) .
115 Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, 433 U.S. 350, 379–81 (1977) ; Central Hudson Gas & Electric Co. v. Public Serv. Comm’n, 447 U.S. 557, 565 n.8 (1980) .
116 Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, 433 U.S. 350, 383–84 (1977) ; Ohralik v. Ohio State Bar Ass’n, 436 U.S. 447, 456 (1978) . Requirements that advertisers disclose more information than they otherwise choose to are upheld “as long as [they] are reasonably related to the State’s interest in preventing deception of consumers,” the Court explaining that “[t]he right of a commercial speaker not to divulge accurate information regarding his services is not . . . a fundamental right” requiring strict scrutiny of the disclosure requirement. Zauderer v. Office of Disciplinary Counsel, 471 U.S. 626, 651 & n.14 (1985) (upholding requirement that attorney’s contingent fees ad mention that unsuccessful plaintiffs might still be liable for court costs).
117 44 Liquormart, Inc. v. Rhode Island, 517 U.S. 484, 501 (1996) (opinion of Justice Stevens, joined by Justices Kennedy and Ginsburg).
118 See, e.g., Ohralik v. Ohio State Bar Ass’n, 436 U.S. 447, 465 (1978) (upholding ban on in–person solicitation by attorneys due in part to the “potential for overreaching” when a trained advocate “solicits an unsophisticated, injured, or distressed lay person”).
119 Compare United States v. Edge Broadcasting Co., 509 U.S. 418 (1993) (upholding federal law supporting state interest in protecting citizens from lottery information) and Florida Bar v. Went For It, Inc., 515 U.S. 618, 631 (1995) (upholding a 30–day ban on targeted, direct– mail solicitation of accident victims by attorneys, not because of any presumed susceptibility to overreaching, but because the ban “forestall[s] the outrage and irritation with the . . . legal profession that the [banned] solicitation . . . has engendered”) with Rubin v. Coors Brewing Co., 514 U.S. 476 (1995) (striking down federal statute prohibiting display of alcohol content on beer labels) and 44 Liquormart, Inc. v. Rhode Island, 517 U.S. 484 (1996) (striking down state law prohibiting display of retail prices in ads for alcoholic beverages).
120 Justice Stevens has criticized the Central Hudson test because it seemingly allows regulation of any speech propounded in a commercial context regardless of the content of that speech. “[A]ny description of commercial speech that is intended to identify the category of speech entitled to less First Amendment protection should relate to the reasons for permitting broader regulation: namely, commercial speech’s potential to mislead.” Rubin v. Coors Brewing Co., 514 U.S. 476, 494 (1995) (concurring opinion). The Justice repeated these views in 1996: “when a State entirely prohibits the dissemination of truthful, nonmisleading commercial messages for reasons unrelated to the preservation of a fair bargaining process, there is far less reason to depart from the rigorous review that the First Amendment generally demands.” 44 Liquormart, Inc. v. Rhode Island, 517 U.S. 484, 501 (1996) (a portion of the opinion joined by Justices Kennedy and Ginsburg). Justice Thomas, similarly, wrote that, in cases “in which the government’s asserted interest is to keep legal users of a product or service ignorant in order to manipulate their choices in the marketplace, the Central Hudson test should not be applied because such an ‘interest’ is per se illegitimate . . . .” Greater New Orleans Broadcasting Ass’n, Inc. v. United States, 527 U.S. 173, 197 (1999) (Thomas, J., concurring) (internal quotation marks omitted).
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