President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign organization cannot avoid a TCPA suit based on First Amendment grounds, a Florida federal court judge has ruled.
Lori Shamblin filed a putative class action suit against the president’s reelection organization, Obama for America. She alleged that from September 2012 until the November presidential election, the group violated the TCPA by making autodialed calls to her cell phone. Shamblin did not answer the calls and received prerecorded voicemails. Not only did she say that she had not given the group her express consent to call her, but also Shamblin claimed she had never even heard of Obama for America prior to receiving the messages.
The defendant responded to the complaint with a motion to dismiss that failed to sway U.S. District Court Judge Virginia M. Hernandez Covington.
“Obama for America suggests that First Amendment concerns are implicated by the complaint because ‘aggregating statutory damages may . . . chill political speech,’” she wrote. “However, Obama for America does not provide any specific arguments supporting dismissal of the present action on First Amendment grounds, or any other grounds for that matter.” Instead, the reelection campaign focused its motion on defeating class certification, an argument Judge Covington said was too early for the procedural posture of the case.
Noting that “[t]his action is in its infancy,” the court denied the motion to dismiss.
To read the order in Shamblin v. Obama for America, click here.
Why it matters: Unfortunately for fellow TCPA defendants, Obama for America failed to elaborate on its potential First Amendment arguments to avoid liability under the statute. As the case moves forward, the group could raise the issue again, possibly in a motion for summary judgment, which might yield a favorable judicial discussion of the issue.