Bolger v. Youngs Drug Products Corporation

PETITIONER: Bolger
RESPONDENT: Youngs Drug Products Corporation
LOCATION: PACIFIC GAS & ELECTRIC CO.

DOCKET NO.: 81-1590
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT:

CITATION: 463 US 60 (1983)
ARGUED: Jan 12, 1983
DECIDED: Jun 24, 1983

ADVOCATES:
David A. Strauss - for appellants
Jerold S. Solovy - for appellee; Robert L

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Bolger v. Youngs Drug Products Corporation

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 12, 1983 in Bolger v. Youngs Drug Products Corporation

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 24, 1983 in Bolger v. Youngs Drug Products Corporation

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

In 81-1590, Bolger v. Youngs Drug Products Corporation, the opinion will be announced by Justice Marshall.

Thurgood Marshall:

This case concerns the constitutionality of a federal statute which prohibits the mailing of unsolicited advertisements for contraceptives.

The Youngs Drug Products Corporation manufactures prophylactic products.

The company sought to mail to the public unsolicited advertisements promoting these products.

The Postal Service notified the company that the mailings would violate federal law.

The company then brought suit in the United States District Court from the District of Columbia.

The Court held that the statute as applied to the proposed mailings violated the First Amendment.

The Government brought this appeal.

And today we affirm the judgment of the District Court.

In an opinion filed with the clerk, we explained that the company's advertisements constitute commercial speech and that we have held that the constitution accords less protection to commercial speech than to other constitutionally safeguarded forms of expression.

However, because the company's advertisements concern lawful activity and are not misleading, the protection of the First Amendment is substantial.

The Government seeks to justify the prohibition on the mailing of the advertisements on two grounds.

First, it argues that the law shields recipients of mail from material that they may find offensive.

Offensiveness is not normally an acceptable justification for suppressing speech protected by the First Amendment.

And we do not think that it carries weight in this case.

Recipients have objectionable mailings can avoid the material simply by averting their eyes.

The short journey from the mailbox to the trash can is an acceptable burden.

The Government also contends that the statute aids parents' efforts to discuss birth control with their children.

While this interest is a substantial one, the ban on unsolicited advertisings provides only marginal assistance to parents.

At the same time it purges all mail boxes or material that is entirely suitable for adults.

The Government may not reduce the adult population to reading only what it sees fit with children.

The statute also restricts the free flow of truthful information bearing on the ability of parents to discuss birth control and to make informal decision.

We therefore hold that as applied to the company's mailings here, the federal law violates the First Amendment.

Justice Rehnquist has filed an opinion concurring in the judgment in which Justice O'Connor.

And Justice Stevens has filed -- also filed an opinion concurring in the judgment.

Justice Brennan took no part in the decision of this case.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Thank you Justice Marshall.