By Karina Brown | Court News
Montana can’t outlaw political robocalls, the Ninth Circuit ruled Tuesday, finding the state’s law violates the First Amendment, hamstrings underdog candidates and fails to protect recipients from financial scams.
In past decisions, the Ninth Circuit has upheld laws restricting automated phone calls based on consumer protections regulating commercial speech and those that restrict the time, place and way robocalls are allowed. And the court has found that such laws apply to cellphones. But a three-judge panel drew the line Tuesday on Montana’s robocall statute, the first considered by the court that regulates such calls based on their content.
Montana passed a law regulating robocalls in 1991, the same year the federal government enacted the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. The law bars unsolicited automated phone calls in five categories, punishable by a $2,500 fine: offering goods or services, informing consumers of goods and services, soliciting information, gathering data or statistics and promoting a political campaign.