On January 3, 2017, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals struck a blow for telephone tranquility. In Patriotic Veterans v. Zoeller, the court upheld an Indiana law forbidding recorded phone messages placed by dialing machines unless the subscriber has consented to receiving robocalls or the recorded message is preceded by a live operator who obtains the subscriber’s consent to transmit the message.
The court found that the law was a valid time, place, and manner restriction and did not disfavor political speech or otherwise violate the First Amendment. The opinion appears to reflect the judges’ personal familiarity with prerecorded telephone calls:
No one can deny the legitimacy of the state’s goal: Preventing the phone (at home or in one’s pocket) from frequently ringing with unwanted calls. Every call uses some of the phone owner’s time and mental energy, both of which are precious. Most members of the public want to limit calls, especially cellphone calls, to family and acquaintances, and to get their political information (not to mention their advertisements) in other ways.
Illinois has a much less restrictive statute governing automated telephone calls.