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Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp. v. Public Service Commission of New York

    Brief Fact Summary. The Respondent, Public Service Commission of New York (Respondent), imposed a ban on all advertising by utility companies.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Commercial speech that is not misleading and concerns lawful activity may be regulated if the government has a substantial interest that will be advanced through a narrowly drawn regulation.

    Facts. In 1973, the Respondent ordered all electric companies to stop advertising the use of electricity. The state determined that it did not have enough fuel to last the winter and needed citizens to conserve. Once the shortage was over, the Respondent polled the public to decide whether to continue the ban on the electric companies. The Petitioner, Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp. (Petitioner), opposed this ban on First Amendment constitutional grounds.

    Issue. Does this ban on advertisement violate the First Amendment of the Constitution?

    Held. Yes. Although energy conservation is important, it does not justify a total ban on all advertisements promoting the use of electric devices or services.

    Discussion. This is an identical test to intermediate scrutiny. The government has the burden to prove that there is a substantial interest that the regulation protects. It is not appropriate to continue a ban to curb consumption of the electric utility.


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