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7th Circuit affirms Indiana’s ban on robocalls

January 4, 2017

A political organization that argued Indiana’s ban on telephone robocalls disfavored political speech and was content discrimination got a terse reply from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Tuesday.

“We don’t get it,” Circuit Judge Frank Easterbrook wrote in Patriotic Veterans, Inc. v. Greg Zoeller, Attorney General of Indiana, 16-2059. “Nothing in the statute … disfavors political speech. The statute as a whole disfavors cold calls (that is, calls to strangers), but if a recipient has authorized robocalls then the nature of the message is irrelevant.”

Bans on computer-assisted robocalls that deliver recorded messages have been sustained in two circuits. But Patriotic Veterans sued to block I.C. §24-5-14-5 after South Carolina’s law was overturned and after the Supreme Court of the United States struck down an Arizona town ordinance regulating the content of signs in Reed v. Gilbert, 135 S. Ct 2218 (2015).

But Easterbrook wrote that Indiana’s law bans robocalls not on the basis of content, but requires the consent of the person being called to use the technology.

“No one can deny the legitimacy of the state’s goal: Preventing the phone (at home or in one’s pocket) from frequently ringing with unwanted calls. Every call uses some of the phone owner’s time and mental energy, both of which are precious,” Easterbrook wrote.

“Preventing automated messages to persons who don’t want their peace and quiet disturbed is a valid time, place, and manner restriction.”  

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