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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. As an adoptive parent, I have to say this situation was as shameful as it gets. While the state government opens its wallet to the Simons and their friends, it denied payments to the most vulnerable in our state. Thanks Mitch!

  2. We as lawyers who have given up the range of First amendment freedom that other people possess, so that we can have a license to practice in the courts of the state and make gobs of money, that we agree to combat the hateful and bigoted discrimination enshrined in the law by democratic majorities, that Law Lord Posner has graciously explained for us....... We must now unhesitatingly condemn the sincerely held religious beliefs of religiously observant Catholics, Muslims, Christians, and Jewish persons alike who yet adhere to Scriptural exhortations concerning sodomites and catamites..... No tolerance will be extended to intolerance, and we must hate the haters most zealously! And in our public explanations of this constitutional garbledygook, when doing the balancing act, we must remember that the state always pushes its finger down on the individualism side of the scale at every turn and at every juncture no matter what the cost to society.....to elevate the values of a minority over the values of the majority is now the defining feature of American "Democracy..." we must remember our role in tricking Americans to think that this is desirable in spite of their own democratically expressed values being trashed. As a secular republic the United States might as well be officially atheist, religious people are now all bigots and will soon be treated with the same contempt that kluckers were in recent times..... The most important thing is that any source of moral authority besides the state be absolutely crushed.

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  4. Hi, Who can I speak to regarding advertising today? Thanks, Gary

  5. Based on several recent Indy Star articles, I would agree that being a case worker would be really hard. You would see the worst of humanity on a daily basis; and when things go wrong guess who gets blamed??!! Not biological parent!! Best of luck to those who entered that line of work.

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