Court hears alcohol ad ban appeal

PENNSYLVANIA — A federal appeals court in January heard arguments in a case involving the University of Pittsburgh student newspaper’s challenge of Act 199, a state law that bans alcohol advertisements in student publications.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit is expected to rule on the case by July. A lower court upheld the law in February 2003.

Vic Walczak, The Pitt News’ attorney, said the law is unconstitutional because it effectively censors student newspapers “by saying certain content is illegal.”

Advertisers who violate the law face fines of up to $500 or jail terms of up to three months, but the newspaper that published the ad would not be punished.

 Former editors of the newspaper have said that since 1997 when the law was first enforced, the paper has lost as much as $20,000 annually in ad revenue and has been forced to decrease the number of pages it publishes.

Walczak said he was “cautiously optimistic” after the hearing.