Correction: This story has been modified from its original version. — "Court rules in favor of alcohol ads," (CT, April 2) was incorrect. Judge M. Hannah Lauck is a Magistrate, not a District Court Judge. The Collegiate Times regrets this error.
U.S. Magistrate Court Judge M. Hannah Lauck issued a summary judgment Monday ruling Virginia ABC rules 3 VAC-5-20-40 A and B (3) unconstitutional.
Related: Judgment summary
The regulations stated that college newspapers could not run advertisements promoting drink specials or alcohol-related industries in order to reduce underage and binge drinking.
"In this case, it is clear that the Plaintiffs no more seek to support irresponsible drinkingthan the Defendants seek to eviscerate the First Amendment," Lauck said in court statement. "Instead, the parties seek clarity under the laws and Constitution of the United States."
The ACLU filed a challenge on behalf of the Educational Media Company at Virginia Tech, the parent company of the Collegiate Times, and the Cavalier Daily, the University of Virginia's student newspaper, on June 8, 2006 stating that the regulations were a violation of free speech rights.
The commissioners of the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Commission were named as defendants in the lawsuit, as were the Chief Operating Officer of the commission and the director of the Law Enforcement Bureau of the Commission.
"The issue of drinking on college campuses is an emotional one and of course everyone wants to do what they can to address the problem," said Rebecca Glenberg, the legal director of the ACLU of Virginia. "But there was no evidence that suppressing the free speech rights of college newspapers did anything to address the problem."
Lauck found that the state can show no evidence that the rules have had any effect in decreasing either underage drinking or binge drinking among college students.
The Collegiate Times and the Cavalier Daily also felt the regulation crippled their revenues.
"Both the Collegiate Times and Cavalier Daily rely heavily on advertising to support their reporting and other programs ... this regulation was severely hindering that," Glenberg said. "It put them at a real competitive disadvantage."
In addition, editors at the Collegiate Times believed that the ABC's regulations hindered their free speech rights.
"Collegiate Times editors had recognized and discussed the fact that they thought this was an unconstitutional rule against their free speech," said Kelly Wolff, the general manager of EMCVT. "Students felt it was important."
Wolff also said it was the only case they were aware of where the editors did not determine the content of the newspaper - a state regulation did.
Pittsburgh University's student newspaper, The Pitt News, entered a challenge against Pennsylvania law that prohibited advertisers from advertising in any publication that was published for any educational institution
The case, Pitt News v. Pappert, ended in favor of the newspaper, with the majority saying the opinion of the court was that the First Amendment precluded enforcement of Pennsylvania law.
Samuel Alito, then a judge on the appeals court that heard the case, is now a judge in the Supreme Court.
Following the victory for student media in Pennsylvania, the Collegiate Times decided to enter a challenge against ABC.
"We realized that there was a good legal precedent out there and we contacted the ACLU," Wolff said.
After close to two years in court, both the ACLU and EMCVT are thrilled with Lauck's ruling.
"I think it's an important victory for student media in Virginia for the court to realize that it is an unconstitutional infringement on free speech," Wolff said.
Though Lauck filed an injunction against enforcing the regulations, neither publication can begin placing alcohol related advertising yet. ABC has 30 days to file an appeal.