North Dakota Charity No-Call Rule Gets Tossed

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A federal judge last week ruled against a North Dakota law that exempted charities using in-house employees and volunteers for fundraising from the state no-call list but not those using paid third-party solicitors.

U.S. District Judge Ralph R. Erickson in Fargo said that by exempting some charity calls from the no-call list and not others, North Dakota discriminated against calls based on content, a violation of the Constitution. He upheld the state's no-call law but took out the parts dealing with charitable solicitations.

Wayne Stenejhem, North Dakota's attorney general, said his office would appeal the ruling. The state's no-call list takes effect Nov. 1, he said.

"I appreciate the judge's expeditious decision and his reasoning, but respectfully disagree," Stenejhem said in a statement. "When you consider that over 135,000 telephone numbers have been registered to date, I believe it's safe to say that when North Dakota citizens signed up on the list, they expected maximum relief from all telemarketing calls."

U.S. District Judge Edward W. Nottingham of Denver made arguments similar to Erickson's in his ruling to throw out the national no-call list. Nottingham's decision is under appeal by the Federal Trade Commission and currently on hold.

In his ruling, Erickson noted that calls made by charity volunteers and employees were just as intrusive as calls made by third-party solicitors. Nottingham used similar language in his ruling, writing that charity and political calls, both exempt under the national list, are just as annoying as commercial calls.

"Those charities that use volunteers or employees may still call and invade one's privacy," Erickson wrote in his decision. "Since the law still allows invasions of privacy by charities, it is not narrowly drawn to serve the interest in protecting privacy."

The North Dakota state lodge of the fraternal order of police filed the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of North Dakota's charity no-call statutes.

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