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Justices uphold Indiana robo-calls ban

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The Indiana Supreme Court has held the state can continue enforcing a ban on automated robo-calls, with four justices finding that enforcement does not violate the Indiana Constitution’s free speech rights.

The majority ruled Thursday in the case of State of Indiana v. FreeEats.com, et al., No. 07S00-1008-MI-411, which involves a Brown Circuit case that began in 2006 when automated phone messaging operator FreeEats.com sought to overturn the Indiana Autodialer Law that banned unsolicited calls with automated messages. This case focused on a company making the calls on behalf of the Economic Freedom Fund during the 2006 congressional campaign, and FreeEats.com argued that the state requirement of using a live operator on the phone before any prerecorded message could be delivered was a free speech infringement.

Special Judge Kenneth Todd had granted in part and denied in part a preliminary injunction request from FreeEats.com and the state appealed, presenting this case for the justices’ consideration.

Writing for the 4-1 court, Justice Steven David held that the live-operator requirement does not violate free speech rights or the right to participate in political speech. Although the trial court didn’t address the First Amendment question and the justices declined to consider that, they did expand on the court’s rationale in why that claim would likely fail. The Indiana justices relied on an 8th Circuit Court of Appeals decision in 1995 and found the Indiana statute is content-neutral and that the restriction on speech is made through private channels to reach private residences.

The court found the Autodialer Law serves a significant government interest in trying to prevent unwanted calls, and the statute leaves open many other forums of communications that could be used to send the same message. FreeEats’ concerns about increased costs don’t invalidate the statute, the court said.

“A conclusion that a statute violates the state constitution when it increases the economic costs to engage in political expression, without any showing that the right to political expression no longer serves its purpose, would be unsound,” David wrote. “Although the Autodialer Law’s live-operator provision is a less-than-ideal requirement for FreeEats, it is not a material burden on its right to engage in political expression.”

Justice Frank Sullivan disagreed with the majority, agreeing with the special judge that the statute in this case imposes an unconstitutional material burden on political speech under the state and federal constitutions. He wrote a 15-page dissent explaining his disagreement, saying he would hold the law fails to satisfy the level of intermediate scrutiny applicable to content-neutral laws, that the statute isn’t narrowly tailored, and that it conflicts with precedent from the Supreme Court of the United States.

 

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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

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