Federal appeals court refuses to reconsider Pennsylvania law banning alcohol ads in student media

A Pennsylvania federal appellate court, on Aug. 17, refused a request by a college newspaper to reconsider its decision upholding a state law that prohibits the advertising of alcohol in college publications.

The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit denied a motion by The Pitt News asking the full court to rehear the case contesting the constitutionality of Act 199, which prohibits businesses from advertising alcoholic beverages in any publication published or produced “by, for or in behalf of any educational institution.”

A three-judge panel of the Third Circuit refused to issue a preliminary injunction that would block enforcement of Act 199 in June, ruling that the ban did not violate the First Amendment rights of the publication, and that The Pitt News’ loss of over $20,000 in ad revenue was only an indirect result of the ban.

“Frankly, none of us within the [American Civil Liberties Union] can understand how the court ruled as it did,” said Vic Walczak, the executive director of the greater Pittsburgh ACLU and the attorney representing The Pitt News. “First Amendment experts around the country have reviewed the decision and are equally confounded with the decision.”

Walczak said he has not decided whether to ask the United States Supreme Court to review the decision.