Facebook Wins Battle of the Canons in Supreme Court Autodialer Case

In a hotly anticipated decision that should have significant impact on litigation under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA), the Supreme Court held, 9-0, that the TCPA’s definition of an “autodialer” does not include equipment that merely stores telephone numbers to be dialed automatically, unless the equipment does so using a random or sequential number generator.  Facebook, Inc. v. Duguid, No. 19-511 (U.S., April 1, 2021).

Stopping unwanted or harmful telemarketing calls has long been a consumer-protection priority.  Toward that end, the TCPA prohibits certain communications made with an “automatic telephone dialing system,” or “autodialer.”  47 U.S.C. § 227(b)(1).  The TCPA defines “autodialers” as equipment with the capacity “to store and produce telephone numbers to be called, using a random or sequential number generator,” and to dial those numbers.  47 U.S.C. § 227(a)(1).  There was no dispute that the last clause (“using a random or sequential number generator”) qualifies the last verb in the preceding clause (“produce”).  The exam-worthy question before the Court, however, was whether that last clause also qualifies the first verb in the preceding clause, “store.”  Put another way, does the TCPA’s definition of autodialer apply to all equipment that “store[s] … telephone numbers to be called,” even if the equipment does not do so “using a random or sequential number generator?”  (The facts of the case play no real role here, but, for context, Facebook used equipment that stored numbers to be dialed automatically, but did not use a random or sequential number generator, so the question was whether Facebook’s equipment fell with the TCPA definition of autodialer).

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What’s Next for the Supremes?

Within moments of the untimely passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the political posturing began in terms of what should happen next with respect to the open seat on the high court. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell came out of the box immediately, stating that President Obama should defer selecting a Supreme Court candidate, so that the next elected President could handle that responsibility in accordance with the apparent wishes of the electorate as part of the upcoming Presidential election.

President Obama, on the other hand, followed up quickly by stating that it is his full intention to carry out his presidential responsibilities during his presidency by naming a Supreme Court candidate to be considered by the Senate. So, now what?

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The Low-Tech U.S. Supreme Court

Gone are the days of non-electronic, hard-copy communications, right? Not so fast! According to The Associated Press, the Justices of the United States Supreme Court are still very low-tech — almost to the point of being no-tech.

When communicating with each other about pending cases under consideration, the Justices tend to send each other formal memoranda printed on ivory paper. This was revealed by Justice Elena Kagan during an interview by Ted Widmer, a Brown University historian and librarian.

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Supreme Court of Pennsylvania Reject Federal Case Law on E-Discovery and Adopts A Proportionality Test for E-Discovery in Amendments to the Rules of Civil Procedure

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania recently amended the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure to officially include the discovery of electronically stored information. The amended rules become effective August 1, 2012.

Changes to Rules

Amended Rule 4009.1 includes “electronically stored information” among the list of items a party may request. The person requesting electronically stored information may specify the format in which it is to be produced and the responding party may thereafter object. If no format has been requested, the responding party may produce electronically stored information in the form in which it is ordinary maintained or in a reasonably usable form.

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