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Justices issue robo-call decision

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The Indiana Supreme Court says the state's two-decade old law on pre-recorded, autodialed calls isn't limited to those placed to consumers with commercial messages. But justices stopped short of deciding how the law applies to political messages, leaving that question for another day.

In a unanimous decision today in State of Indiana v. American Family Voices, et al., No. 31S00-0803-CV-139, justices reversed a Harrison Circuit Court decision dismissing the state's case based on Trial Rule 12(B)(6) in that no claim was cited for which relief was available. The case involves the state Attorney General's attempted enforcement of the Indiana Autodialer Law that limits automated phone calls and mandates that a live operator first disclose the source and purpose of the call.

Though the law was passed in 1988, the Attorney General's Office didn't start applying it to political calls and enforcing it until 2006. Several suits were filed, including this one against American Family Voices - a political non-profit group in Washington, D.C., making calls in that year's congressional election.

Lawyers for both sides focused on what they described as ambiguities in Indiana Code § 24-5-14-5(b), such as not defining specifically what "messages" means and whether that applies to commercial calls only.

"We hold that a complaint filed under this statute is not required to allege that consumer transaction calls are at issue because the law applies to all autodialer calls, not just consumer transaction calls with commercial messages," Justice Frank Sullivan wrote for the court.

Some remedies in the statute clearly require consumer or commercial transactions and are targeted at those types of calls, but others do not and that makes it impossible for the court to infer that the statutory scheme excludes non-consumer or non-commercial transactions, Justice Sullivan wrote. But he also included a point that the legislature provides an exemption for messages from school districts to inform parents, showing that lawmakers could have excluded other groups but chose not to.

However, the ruling tiptoes around political messages.

"As can be easily inferred from the presence of the Democratic and Republican State Central Committees as amici in this case, this litigation raises questions as to the extent to which the Autodialer Law limits and may constitutionally limit the use of autodialers to convey political messages," Justice Sullivan wrote. "However, all parties agree that no such questions are before this Court at this stage of the litigation and we express no opinion with respect thereto."

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  1. Family court judges never fail to surprise me with their irrational thinking. First of all any man who abuses his wife is not fit to be a parent. A man who can't control his anger should not be allowed around his child unsupervised period. Just because he's never been convicted of abusing his child doesn't mean he won't and maybe he hasn't but a man that has such poor judgement and control is not fit to parent without oversight - only a moron would think otherwise. Secondly, why should the mother have to pay? He's the one who made the poor decisions to abuse and he should be the one to pay the price - monetarily and otherwise. Yes it's sad that the little girl may be deprived of her father, but really what kind of father is he - the one that abuses her mother the one that can't even step up and do what's necessary on his own instead the abused mother is to pay for him???? What is this Judge thinking? Another example of how this world rewards bad behavior and punishes those who do right. Way to go Judge - NOT.

  2. Right on. Legalize it. We can take billions away from the drug cartels and help reduce violence in central America and more unwanted illegal immigration all in one fell swoop. cut taxes on the savings from needless incarcerations. On and stop eroding our fourth amendment freedom or whatever's left of it.

  3. "...a switch from crop production to hog production "does not constitute a significant change."??? REALLY?!?! Any judge that cannot see a significant difference between a plant and an animal needs to find another line of work.

  4. Why do so many lawyers get away with lying in court, Jamie Yoak?

  5. Future generations will be amazed that we prosecuted people for possessing a harmless plant. The New York Times came out in favor of legalization in Saturday's edition of the newspaper.

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