In a victory for big tobacco, reports CBS News Correspondent Barry Bagnato, the Supreme Court ruled Massachusetts cannot ban cigarette advertisements within one thousand feet of schools and playgrounds. It said the free speech rights of tobacco companies take precedence over the state's desire to keep kids from being influenced by ads.
But at the same time, the justices are allowing the state to dictate how cigarettes and smokeless tobacco can be sold. They upheld regulations that require retailers to put those products out of reach of consumers.
In another major decision, the Court decided that aliens convicted of crimes cannot be kept in jail indefinitely, just because the government is unable to deport them.
The unanimous but tangled ruling was a victory for a group of tobacco companies that had fought proposed ad restrictions in Massachusetts as both a violation of federal law and an unconstitutional limit on the companies' free speech.
The court's ruling focuses narrowly on the language of the Massachusetts ad ban, but the justices' reasoning would extend to any other state contemplating similar restrictions.
In the second victory this week for immigrants who commit crimes, the court said open-ended jailing cannot be justified under the Constitution.
The vote was 5-4, the same margin by which the court ruled Monday that legal aliens convicted of certain crimes are entitled to a court hearing before they can be deported.
Thursday's ruling affects about 3,000 deportable immigrants whose home countries either will not accept them or no longer exist. All were convicted of serious crimes, have served their sentences and are now in legal limbo.
The court gave cigarette makers a partial free-speech victory, ruling that the state's plans for bans on outdoor advertising and signs would violate the First Amendment. The state does have the right to restrict where tobacco products may be displayed inside stores, the justices ruled.
Massachusetts had proposed banning outdoor advertising of all tobacco products within 1,000 feet of schools and playgrounds, including ads outside stores and those inside stores that can been seen from outside.
The state law also required that tobacco products be kept behind store counters, and it prohibited advertising at children's eye level.
The state cited reports by the Food and Drug Administration and the surgeon general that tobacco advertising significantly influences children's tobacco use.
"From a policy perspective, it is understandable for the states to attempt to prevent minors from using tobacco products before they reach an age where they are capable of weighing for themselves the risks and potential benefits of tobacco use, and other adult activities," Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote. "Federal law, however, places limits on policy choices available to the states."
One final note, reports b>Bagnato: There were no retirement announcements by justices, before the gavel came down.
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