Bolger v. Youngs Drug Products Corp.
463 U.S. 60 (1983)

  • Youngs manufactured contraceptives. They wanted to do a mass mailing campaign advertising their products to the public and educating the public on birth control methods. Unfortunately, there was a Federal law prohibiting the mailing of unsolicited advertisements for contraceptives.
  • Youngs sued for an injunction, claiming that the law was an unconstitutional infringement of their 1st Amendment right to free speech.
    • The Postal Service argued that Youngs mailing was not covered under the 1st Amendment.
    • Youngs argued that their mailers were political speech because they educated people on birth control issues.
  • The Trial Court found for Youngs and issued an injunction. The Postal Service appealed.
  • The US Supreme Court affirmed.
    • The US Supreme Court noted that if Youngs mailings were considered political speech, then they were 100% covered by the 1st Amendment. If they were considered commercial speech, then they were only due a lesser degree of protection.
    • The Court found that the mailers were clearly commercial speech.
      • The Court noted that the mailers were advertisements, they referred to a specific product, and Youngs was mailing them for commercial reasons.
        • “Advertising which links a product to a current public debate is not thereby entitled to the constitutional protection afforded noncommercial speech.”
    • The Court found that there are two areas in which the government can regulate commercial speech:
      • If the speech promotes illegal acts or it is false, deceptive, or misleading, or
      • If there is a substantial government interest.
    • The Postal Service argued that there was a substantial government interest in not offending people who didn’t want the mailings, and helping parents keep their kids from learning about birth control. However, the Court found that neither of these reasons was compelling enough to justify the law.
  • This case helped define the idea that commercial speech is due intermediate scrutiny protection.