Samuel Alito on Drugs

Supreme Court Justice (nominated by Pres. George W. Bush 2005)


Alcohol ads cannot be banned from school newspapers

A Pennsylvania law banned advertisers from paying for “alcoholic beverage advertising” in media affiliated with educational institutions. The Pitt News, the University of Pittsburgh’s student newspaper, sued, charging a violation of its First Amendment rights. Alito agreed.

The Pitt News is distributed free to the university’s 25,000 students, two thirds of whom are old enough to drink alcohol. All the paper’s revenues come from advertising, much of it from alcoholic-beverage ads. The law cost the paper $17,000 in one year, which caused the paper to shrink in size and to postpone the purchase of digital cameras and improved computers.

Alito’s court opinion held that the law was an impermissible restriction on commercial speech, discouraging a form of speech because of its content. He said there was no reasonable connection between the speech restriction and the Pennsylvania government’s asserted reason for it-preventing underage drinking.

Source: George F. Will, Newsweek, “Three Samples of Alito” , Nov 21, 2005

Sentences should stand despite crack-vs.-powder rule change.

Justice Alito joined the dissent on FREEMAN v. UNITED STATES on Jun 23, 2011:

The defendant entered into an agreement with the prosecution to plead guilty to crack cocaine possession. Following this plea, the sentencing guidelines federal judges must consider when they impose prison terms were retroactively revised to lower the prison time required in crimes involving cocaine base [crack cocaine], which were higher than those for powder cocaine. The law permitted defendants who were sentenced based upon the old guideline to seek the lower prison sentence if the guideline was revised downward.

HELD: Delivered by KENNEDY, joined by GINSBURG, BREYER & KAGAN

The Court must determine whether this defendant may take advantage of the lowering of the sentencing guidelines for the [crack cocaine] offense he was sentenced for. Even though this defendant was sentenced in accordance with an agreement, the Court finds that district court judges have a duty to consider the sentencing guidelines at all times, includinwg when deciding whether to accept a guilty plea that is contingent upon one of these agreements. Since the guidelines are the starting point for all sentencing decisions, even a defendant who agrees to a sentence may seek to have his sentence revised after a guidelines change.

CONCURRED: SOTOMAYOR concurs in the judgment

A sentence under one of these agreements is based upon the agreement itself, not on the judge's calculation of the guidelines. However, the agreement in this case expressly used the guidelines sentencing range to establish the term of imprisonment. When an agreement uses the guidelines, a defendant may seek reduction of his prison term based upon a guideline revision.


A sentence based upon an agreement is based upon the agreement alone, whether or not the sentencing guidelines were considered, and a defendant so sentenced should not be allowed the opportunity for a sentencing revision when the guidelines are changed.
Source: Supreme Court case 11-FREEMAN argued on Feb 23, 2011

Other Justices on Drugs: Samuel Alito on other issues:
Samuel Alito(since 2006)
Amy Coney Barrett(since 2020)
Stephen Breyer(since 1994)
Neil Gorsuch(since 2017)
Ketanji Brown Jackson(nominated 2022)
Elena Kagan(since 2010)
Brett Kavanaugh(since 2018)
John Roberts(since 2005)
Sonia Sotomayor(since 2009)
Clarence Thomas(since 1991)

Former Justices:
Merrick Garland(nominated 2016)
Ruth Bader Ginsburg(1993-2020)
Anthony Kennedy(1988-2018)
Antonin Scalia(1986-2016)
John Paul Stevens(1975-2010)
David Souter(1990-2009)
Sandra Day O'Connor(1981-2006)
William Rehnquist(1975-2005)

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Page last updated: Mar 21, 2022