Court Hangs Up On Telemarketers

Supreme Court AOL CBS/AP

The Supreme Court turned away a challenge Monday to the federal do-not-call registry, ending telemarketers' bid to invoke free-speech arguments to get the popular ban on unwanted phone solicitations thrown out.

The court, without comment, let stand a 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision that upheld the registry of more than 57 million phone numbers as a reasonable government attempt to safeguard personal privacy and reduce telemarketing abuse.

Under the 2003 federal law, businesses face fines of up to $11,000 if they call people who sign up for the registry — unless they have recently done business with them. Charities, pollsters and callers on behalf of politicians, however, are exempt.

Telemarketing groups had filed the appeal, arguing in filings that the registry violated First Amendment rights because it singled businesses out while exempting other groups. They also said 2 million of their 6.5 million workers will lose their jobs within two years if the do-not-call rules stand.

A federal judge in Denver agreed with the telemarketers, but the circuit court upheld the registry in February 2004 after concluding there was no evidence suggesting that charitable or political callers were as intrusive to consumers' privacy.

The case is American Teleservices Association v. FTC, 03-1552.

In other decisions:

  • The Supreme Court rejected an appeal from ousted Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore who lost his job over a controversial Ten Commandments monument.

  • The court declined to consider another issue related to the rights of terrorism suspects – rejecting without comment an appeal by Ali Saleh Kahlab al-Marri, one of three people who have been held in America as enemy combatants without traditional legal rights. At issue was whether al-Marri's lawyers should have challenged his detention in a court in South Carolina, where he is being held, instead of Illinois, where al-Marri lived before his arrest.

  • The Court refused to disturb a ruling that forces some California religious organizations to pay for workers' contraceptive health insurance benefits.

  • The Court sidestepped a dispute over tribal gambling, a victory for California tribes and their new high-profile supporter, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Justices refused to consider whether states can let tribes operate casinos while barring others from this enterprise. More than 20 states allow tribes to run gambling businesses, but not private companies, the court was told.

  • The Court turned away an appeal by a Louisiana prison journalist who argued that trying him four times on the same murder charges would be unconstitutional double jeopardy. The court let stand, without comment, a Louisiana Supreme Court ruling this year allowing Wilbert Rideau's fourth trial to proceed.

  • The Court declined to hear a lawyer's challenge to the government's detention of Saddam Hussein. The long-shot bid would have had to grant special permission to pick the case up.
    • Joel Roberts

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