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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. Your article is a good intro the recent amendments to Fed.R.Civ.P. For a much longer - though not necessarily better -- summary, counsel might want to read THE CHIEF UMPIRE IS CHANGING THE STRIKE ZONE, which I co-authored and which was just published in the January issue of THE VERDICT (the monthly publication of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association).

  2. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  3. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  4. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  5. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

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