Central Hudson Gas and Electric Corp. v. Public Service Commn. New York
447 U.S. 557 (1980)
New York was worried that
people were wasting electricity and that might lead to fuel shortages.
So, they instituted a temporary ban on all advertising that promotes the
use of electricity.
A few years later, they
decided to extend the ban. Central Hudson sued, claiming that the
advertising ban was an unconstitutional infringement of their right to
free speech under the 1st
New York argued that the
advertisements were unprotected by the 1st Amendment.
The US Supreme Court found the
New York law to be unconstitutional, and struck it down.
The US Supreme Court found
that advertising is commercial speech
and was due some amount of 1st Amendment
However, it is not due
complete protection, as is political speech.
The Court found that there
is a four part test to determining if a restriction on commercial
speech is permissible under the 1st
Is the expression protected
by the 1st Amendment?
Commercial speech is not covered by the 1st
Amendment if it promotes illegal activity or is false
Is there a substantial
governmental interest involved?
Does the regulation advance
the governmental interest?
Is the regulation more
extensive than is necessary to serve that interest?
In this case, the Court
found that the New York law was more extensive than necessary to be
This process for determining
whether or not commercial speech
can be regulated (known as the Central Hudson Test) is similar to the process used for determining
the legality of other infringements of constitutional rights.
As a rule of thumb, commercial
speech tends to get intermediate
The Court has been
inconsistent in how to apply the fourth part of the Central Hudson
Test, and has flip-flopped between
requiring the regulation to be "the least restrictive means
possible" and just being "narrowly-tailored."