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State Supreme Court's robo-calls ruling carries over to federal lawsuit

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A ruling by the Indiana Supreme Court upholding the state’s automated phone call ban has found its way into the briefing of a federal appeal challenging the same statute, and the attorneys disagree on whether the state justices adequately addressed a First Amendment issue.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals is considering the case of Patriotic Veteran, Inc. v. State of Indiana, No. 11-32-65, filed by the state attorney general’s office after U.S. Judge William Lawrence in Indianapolis blocked enforcement of Indiana Code 24-5-14-1, known as the Indiana Automatic Dialing Machine Statute. The appellate court decided in late December to allow the state to enforce the ban while appeal is pending on that case, which specifically focuses on whether the Indiana statute is pre-empted by a more lenient federal law involving out-of-state robo-calls.

But adding a wrinkle to that litigation is a separate state court decision Dec. 29 in the case of State of Indiana v. Economic Freedom Fund, FreeEats.com, et al., No. 07S00-1008-MI-411. The decision by the Indiana Supreme Court involves a Brown Circuit case that began in 2006 when automated phone messaging operator FreeEats.com sought to overturn the law banning unsolicited calls with automated messages. Justice Steven David wrote for the 4-1 court that the live-operator requirement does not violate free speech rights or the right to participate in political speech under the Indiana Constitution.

In its opinion, the majority noted that the trial court didn’t address the First Amendment question because it was not before the court. But the justices still stated why they believe that First Amendment argument is likely to fail. They relied on an 8th Circuit Court of Appeals decision from 1995 to find the Indiana statute is content-neutral and that the restriction on speech is made through private channels to reach private residences.

A day after the state court decision, attorneys in the Patriotic Veterans suit filed a notice of supplemental authority and noted that the Indiana Supreme Court only reviewed the law under the test applied by Article 1, Section 9 of the Indiana Constitution and “expressly refused to determine whether the ADMS violated the First Amendment of the federal constitution.”

Attorney Paul Jefferson with Barnes & Thornburg pointed to lone-dissenter Justice Frank Sullivan’s 15-page opinion which indicated Sullivan believes the state statute isn’t narrowly tailored and conflicts with Supreme Court of the United States precedent. Jefferson also noted that the state ruling isn’t final until it’s certified, after a possible rehearing request deadline is past.

In a letter filed with the 7th Circuit on Wednesday, the attorney general’s office argues that the state justices did adequately address the federal question even though it wasn’t officially before them.

“Although the Indiana Supreme Court initially suggested that the First Amendment claim was not properly before it, it nonetheless analyzed that claim and ultimately held it was ‘likely to fail’,” the AG’s letter states. “The Economic Freedom Fund decision thus squarely supports the State’s First Amendment arguments in this matter. Furthermore, though that decision was rendered at the preliminary injunction stage, the Indiana Supreme Court left no room for further evidentiary submissions to yield a different result.”

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  1. 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.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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