44 Liquormart, Inc. v. Rhode Island, 517 U. S. 484 (1996)

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44 LIQUORMART, INC., et al. v. RHODE ISLAND et al.

certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the first circuit

No. 94-1140. Argued November 1, 1995—Decided May 13, 1996

Petitioners, a licensed Rhode Island liquor retailer and a licensed Massachusetts liquor retailer patronized by Rhode Island residents, filed this action seeking a declaratory judgment that Rhode Island laws banning the advertisement of retail liquor prices except at the place of sale violate the First Amendment. In concluding that the ban was unconstitutional because it did not directly advance the State's asserted interest in the promotion of temperance and was more extensive than necessary to serve that interest, the District Court reasoned that the party seeking to uphold a restriction on commercial speech carries the burden of justifying it and that the Twenty-first Amendment did not shift or diminish that burden. In reversing, the Court of Appeals, inter alia, found "inherent merit" in the State's submission that competitive price advertising would ultimately increase sales, and agreed with it that the Twenty-first Amendment gave its advertising ban an added presumption of validity.

Held: The judgment is reversed.

39 F. 3d 5, reversed.

Justice Stevens delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to

Parts I, II, VII, and VIII, concluding: 1. The Twenty-first Amendment cannot save Rhode Island's price advertising ban because that Amendment does not qualify the First Amendment's prohibition against laws abridging the freedom of speech. Although the Twenty-first Amendment—which repealed Prohibition and gave the States the power to prohibit commerce in, or the use of, alcoholic beverages—limits the dormant Commerce Clause's effect on a State's regulatory power over the delivery or use of liquor within its borders, the Amendment does not license the States to ignore their obligations under other constitutional provisions. See, e. g., Capital Cities Cable, Inc. v. Crisp, 467 U. S. 691, 712. California v. LaRue, 409 U. S. 109, 118-119, disavowed. Because the First Amendment must be included among those other provisions, the Twenty-first Amendment does not shield the advertising ban from constitutional scrutiny. Pp. 514-516. 2. Because Rhode Island has failed to carry its heavy burden of justifying its complete ban on price advertising, that ban is invalid. P. 516.

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