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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Ind. Courts - More on "Indiana high court takes up 'robo' calls" next Monday

Updating this entry from earlier today, Shane D'Aprile of the publication Politics reports today:

The Indiana Supreme Court is set to hear a critical case on Monday that is likely to frame the debate-currently taking place in close to a dozen individual states and on Capitol Hill-over the regulation of political robocalls.

While a slew of states have restricted political robocalls, Indiana's law is perhaps the toughest, banning the calls outright, and state Attorney General Steve Carter has aggressively pursued evidence of violations. It has led to a legal showdown that pits First Amendment advocates, political professionals and both the Indiana Republican and Democratic state parties against the state's attorney general.

"The state parties weren't too happy when I informed them that I would be enforcing this law," says Carter, referring to a 20-year-old statute that bans automated calls. After the 2006 mid-term elections, Carter brought suit against American Family Voices, a Democratic group that launched robocalls against then-Rep. Mike Sodrel (R).

After a lower court judge essentially ruled in favor of American Family Voices, deciding that the Indiana law cannot prohibit political calls, Carter appealed the case directly to the state Supreme Court, hoping he could get a ruling before this November's election.

"We aren't trying to regulate the content of political speech in any way," Carter says. "This law only deals with the form in which the message is delivered."

Carter says there is no exemption in the state's statute for political calls and he argues his reading of the law is accurate. "The legislature could have made an exemption for politicians, but they decided not to do that," he says. "In fact, the legislature could go ahead and repeal the law if they wanted to, but they haven't done that either." * * *

The statute in question harkens back 20 years, and it took some research on the part of the state attorney general's office to realize it was even on the books. After Indiana passed one of the toughest commercial do-not-call laws in the nation back in 2001, Carter says his office was flooded with requests to do away with political calls. That was when Carter found the 1988 law banning auto calls, and he put the state parties on notice before the 2006 election cycle that he intended to enforce it. And, for the most part, the threat of enforcement has worked.

Note that it was announced today that the oral argument will be in the Tilson Auditorium in the Hulman Center at Indiana State University in Terre Haute. The time remains at 1:00 PM. No word as to what impact this will have, if any, on the live and delayed webcasts.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 12, 2008 12:05 PM
Posted to Upcoming Oral Arguments