A petition has been filed with the Supreme Court to determine whether an exemption in the Telephone Consumer Protection Act that allows for calls to be made using an automated telephone dialing system without obtaining prior consent when collecting on debts owed or guaranteed by the federal government are unconstitutional restrictions of free speech.
A copy of the petition in the case of Charter Communications, Inc., and Spectrum Management Holding Company, LLC v. Steve Gallion can be accessed by clicking here.
The case was appealed to the Supreme Court from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which had ruled that the exemption for debt collection calls was unconstitutional because it represents content-based restrictions on speech and thus violates the First Amendment. The issue, at least for the petitioners in this case, is that rather than striking down the unconstitutional restrictions, the Appeals Court severed the exception from the TCPA, which had the effect of expanding the statute’s prohibitions on speech. The petitioner had sought an en banc hearing before the entire Ninth Circuit, but that request was denied.
The respondent, who was the plaintiff when this case started, received one call from the defendant (now the petitioner), which was allegedly made using an ATDS. The defendant, among other affirmative defenses, argued that the TCPA was unconstitutional.
“Review is warranted because the Ninth Circuit’s sweeping and extraordinary severability holding threatens to destabilize vital and long-established First Amendment principles,” the petitioner wrote in its writ. “That holding departs from this Court’s settled First Amendment precedent, creates a circuit conflict with the Third Circuit and other courts of appeals, and will have far-reaching effects on speech throughout the nation’s largest judicial circuit. This Court’s urgent intervention is required.”