Judge Upholds Indiana No-Call Law

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A state court judge has upheld Indiana's do-not-call list law over a challenge by a local business that claimed the granting of exemptions to certain groups made the statute unconstitutional.

In a ruling issued July 5 in Evansville, IN, Judge Carl Heldt rejected a claim by Steve Martin & Associates that the state's DNC list law violated the Constitution's free-speech protections. The Kirby vacuum distributor had received a citation from the state for violating the DNC list during an appointment-setting campaign.

Heldt ruled that while the First Amendment prohibited government from interfering with the free exchange of ideas, it did not prevent individuals from making their own decisions "to give audience to certain types of speech while avoiding others."

Heldt also denied the company's claim that the state had violated its right to equal protection under the First Amendment by granting exemptions to non-profits that do their calling in-house, insurance and real-estate agencies and newspapers.

According to Heldt, insurance and real-estate agents are licensed and are already heavily regulated by the state. Newspapers, Heldt said, are a "community product" and a vehicle for free speech, and their promotion through the sale of subscriptions over the telephone is in the public interest.

Indiana supporters of the state's DNC list law welcomed the judge's decision.

"I have said all along that I don't think the Constitution would require that people be defenseless against the annoying ring of the telephone," Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter, who defended the state's DNC list law in the challenge, said in a statement. "We presented a strong case that supported the constitutionality of the law and of Hoosiers' rights to be free from the annoying ring of unsolicited calls from telemarketers."

Carter said his office would continue to defend the state's DNC list law from ongoing legal threats. According to the Indiana Attorney General's office, 1.1 million phone numbers, representing 2 million individuals, are currently registered for the list.

Mark Miller, an attorney for Steve Martin & Associates, did not return phone calls yesterday. Another attorney representing the company told the Evansville Courier & Press that his client was considering an appeal but had not made any decisions.

A separate challenge to Indiana's DNC list law, filed April 10 by four nonprofit organizations that use outsourced telemarketing providers and thus do not qualify for the exemption, remains pending in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis. That challenge also raises the issue of whether Indiana violated equal-protection rights by including exemptions in its DNC list law.

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