7th Circuit: Federal law does not preempt Indiana’s ‘robo-call’ statute

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Thursday reversed the decision by a federal judge that Indiana’s Automated Dialing Machine Statute is preempted by the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act. The injunction entered against enforcing the law had been stayed by the appellate court pending appeal.

Patriotic Veterans Inc., an Illinois nonprofit, challenged the state statute because it wanted to make automated calls – or robo-calls – to Indiana residents that delivered political messages related to a particular candidate or issue. The organization filed a complaint seeking a declaration that the law is invalid because it violates the First Amendment as it applies to political messages, and that the law is preempted by the TCPA.

Judge William Lawrence ruled in September 2011 that the U.S. law preempted the state statute and granted Patriotic Veterans’ request for an injunction.

The 7th Circuit, looking at the TCPA, held that it does not expressly or impliedly preempt the Automated Dialing Machine Statute.

“The Indiana law is more restrictive than the federal law, but in no way does it frustrate any process that the federal statute requires,” Judge Ilana Diamond Rovner wrote. In fact, the TCPA says nothing about preempting laws that regulate the interstate use of automatic dialing systems. Therefore, we must conclude that they are not preempted.”

The judges noted other courts have reached the same conclusion when considering federal preemption by the TCPA of similar state statutes.

“Because the district court decided the case on the basis of preemption, it never had reason to address the arguments regarding the constitutionality of the statute. We are a reviewing court and think that the argument would benefit from two-tiered examination. We thus reverse the ruling on preemption and remand for an evaluation of whether Indiana’s statute violates the free speech rights protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution,” Rovner wrote in Patriotic Veterans Inc. v. State of Indiana, et al., 11-3265.




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