No Robocalls Here! 7th Cir. Upholds Anti-Robocall Law

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By Melissa Heelan Stanzione

Indiana’s anti-robocall statute is a valid time, place and manner restriction and not an instance of content-based discrimination, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held Jan. 3 ( Patriotic Veterans, Inc. v. Zoeller , 7th Cir., No. 16-2059, 1/3/17 ).

A phone owner’s “time and mental energy” are precious, so the state has a legitimate interest in preventing phones from “frequently ringing with unwanted calls,” Judge Frank H. Easterbrook wrote for the court.

The law forbids recorded phone messages placed by automated dialing machines unless a person has consented to receipt of the message or the message is preceded by a live operator who obtains consent before the message is delivered.

The statute and its three exceptions—allowing robocalls for messages from school districts; to subscribers with relationships with the caller; and to employees about work schedules—regulate who may be called, the court said.

“The nature of the message is irrelevant” it said.

Because the law isn’t content-based—meaning it doesn’t target speech based on what it is trying to communicate—the case doesn’t implicate Reed v. Town of Gilbert , 83 U.S.L.W. 4444, 2016 BL 193925 (U.S. June 18, 2015), the court said.

In Reed, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down an Arizona town’s overly restrictive sign code, saying it unconstitutionally regulated speech based on its content.

Judges Ilana Diamond Rovner and Diane S. Sykes joined the opinion.

Barnes & Thornburg LLP represented the plaintiffs. The Indiana attorney general’s office represented the state.

To contact the reporter on this story: Melissa Heelan Stanzione in Washington at mstanzione@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at jkamens@bna.com

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