Federal Appeals Panel Rejects 24-Year-Old South Carolina Law Outlawing Political Robocalls

Saturday, August 15, 2015
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South Carolina’s law banning political robocalls has been tossed out by a federal appeals court that found it violated protected speech under the constitution.

A panel of judges with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Republican consultant Robert Cahaly, who ran afoul of the state’s 1991 anti-robocall law. The law banned computerized cold calls “of a political nature including, but not limited to, calls relating to political campaigns,” according to Courthouse News Service. Violators were subject to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.

Cahaly got into trouble five years ago when he set up prerecorded political survey calls to constituents in six legislative districts. He says he first checked with the state attorney general’s office to make sure his robocalls were legal. But Democrats complained about the calls, which led to Cahaly being arrested.

The charges were dropped a year later, after which Cahaly sued the state claiming the anti-robocall law interfered with protected speech.

The Fourth Circuit panel agreed with Cahaly.  “Under that rubric, the court found the statute unconstitutional due to ‘its underinclusiveness and its singling out of commercial and political speech’ when the asserted government interest was to eliminate nearly all robocalls to protect residential privacy,” Circuit Judge Albert Diaz wrote on behalf of the three-judge panel.

-Noel Brinkerhoff

 

To Learn More:

4th Circuit Tosses S.C. ‘Anti-Robocall’ Law (by Charly Himmel, Courthouse News Service)

Robert Cahaly v. Paul Larosa (Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals)

Senate Bill would Add Political Groups to Do-Not-Call Lists (by Steve Straehley, AllGov)

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