State responds to lawsuit alleging limitations on alcohol ads violate First Amendment

VIRGINIA –The state attorney general’s office has filed itsresponse to a lawsuit that challengesthe constitutionality of a regulation prohibiting college student publicationsfrom running alcohol advertisements.

Thelawsuit was filed infederal district court in early June on behalf of the Collegiate Times, the student newspaperat Virginia Tech, and The CavalierDaily, the student newspaper at the University of Virginia. It seeks tooverturn Virginia Administrative Code Section5-20-40 arguingit violates the students’ First Amendment rights.

In itsresponse, filed late last week, the state argues that, to the extent the coderegulates constitutionally protected speech, it is constitutional because it”advances a substantial governmentalinterest.”

Additionally, the state denies that the papers havesuffered any damages or injury as a result of the policy and questions whetherthe newspapers meet the regulation’s definition of college studentpublications.

”No final determination has yet been made thateither the Collegiate Times orThe Cavalier Daily constitutes a ‘college student publication,”’ according to theresponse.

The statute defines ”college studentpublication” as: ”any college or university publication that isprepared, edited or published primarily by students at such institution, issanctioned as a curricular or extra-curricular activity by such institution andwhich is distributed or intended to be distributed primarily to persons under 21years of age.”

Rebecca Glenberg, legal director for theAmerican Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, which filed the lawsuit on behalf ofthe students, called the response ”prettystandard.”

”We still feel confident that the law is onour side and the precedent in Pennsylvania will go a long way in invalidatingthe regulation in Virginia,” Glenberg said.

In 2004, athree-judge panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that aPennsylvania law designed to curb the amount of alcohol ads directed to studentsunder the age of 21 by prohibiting such advertising in campus publicationsviolated the First Amendment.

The Virginia Attorney General’sOffice declined further comment.

Glenberg said the next step isdiscovery and did not expect the case going to trial for severalmonths.