Articles Posted in Communications Law

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On April 21, 2004, and March 22, 2005, Defendants sent unsolicited faxes to Dr. Weitzner’s office. Weitzner filed a putative class action in Pennsylvania state court under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), 47 U.S.C. 227(b)(1)(C), including at least one fax sent to Weitzner. The proposed class included all individuals “who received an unsolicited facsimile advertisement from defendants between January 2, 2001[,] and the date of the resolution of this lawsuit.” In June 2008, the court denied class certification. The case continues as Weitzner's individual action. Defendants stopped sending unsolicited faxes in April 2005. In 2011, Weitzner and his professional corporation (Plaintiffs) brought individual claims based on the same faxes, plus class claims similar to those alleged in state court. The court dismissed, concluding that the four-year federal default statute of limitations, 28 U.S.C. 1658, applicable. The Third Circuit affirmed, rejecting a claim under the Supreme Court’s “American Pipe” holding that the timely filing of a class action tolls the applicable statute of limitations for putative class members until the propriety of maintaining the class is determined. American Pipe permits putative class members to file only individual claims after a denial of class certification and does not toll the limitations period for named plaintiffs like Weitzner. Any judgment in favor of Weitzner P.C. would benefit only Dr. Weitzner. Applying tolling to P.C.’s claims would effectively allow Weitzner to pursue his claims for a second time outside the limitations period. View "Weitzner v. Sanofi Pasteur, Inc." on Justia Law

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Thomas was arrested on charges that she “knowingly attempted to provide material support . . . to a designated foreign terrorist organization,” 18 U.S.C. 2339B. Thomas unsuccessfully moved for a bill of particulars and to compel notice and discovery of surveillance. Thomas pled guilty. Access to several documents on the docket was restricted. Philly Declaration moved to intervene and obtain access to all records on the docket, transcripts of Thomas’s plea hearing and her ex parte presentation to the court regarding the motions, and search warrant materials. The prosecution agreed that certain records should be largely unsealed but maintained that the “Plea Document” that was docketed with the publicly-filed guilty plea memorandum should remain under seal for reasons detailed in a sealed addendum and objected to unsealing a “Grand Jury exhibit” attached to Thomas’s reply brief in support of her motion for a bill of particulars and to unredacting quotes and citations that appeared in the Reply Brief itself. The district court ruled in favor of the government. The Third Circuit affirmed as to the Plea Document, vacated with respect to the Reply Brief and Exhibit, and remanded. While a presumptive First Amendment right of access attaches to plea hearings and related documents, the district court properly concluded that the compelling government interests of national security would be substantially impaired by permitting full access to this plea document. The proposed redactions are properly first considered by the district court. View "United States v. Thomas" on Justia Law

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Pennsylvania charged Walker with forgery and computer crimes, joined with prior charges against Walker’s husband and his trucking company. Senior deputy attorney general Coffey was assigned to the case. Zimmerer was the lead investigator. They sought to obtain Walker’s work emails from her employer, Penn State, which responded, “We just need something formal, a subpoena.” Coffey and Zimmerer obtained a blank subpoena form, which they filled out in part. The subpoena is blank as to the date, time, and place of production and the party on behalf of whom testimony is required, and was, on its face, unenforceable. Zimmerer presented the unenforceable subpoena to Penn State's Assistant General Counsel. Penn State employees searched for and delivered the requested emails. The charges against Walker were subsequently dismissed with prejudice. Walker filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action against Zimmerer and Coffey. The district court dismissed, agreeing that Zimmerer and Coffey were entitled to qualified immunity because Walker could not show a clearly established right to privacy in the content of her work emails. The Third Circuit affirmed that dismissal but vacated the denial of Walker’s motion for leave to file a second amended complaint, asserting claims under the Stored Communications Act. The emails were transmitted via Walker’s work email address, through an email system controlled by Penn State. Walker did not enjoy any reasonable expectation of privacy vis-à-vis Penn State, which could independently consent to a search of Walker’s work emails. View "Walker v. Coffey" on Justia Law

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The Levins allege that HRRG violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692- 1692p by leaving telephone voice messages that did not use its true name, did not meaningfully disclose its identity, and used false representations and deceptive means to attempt to collect a debt or obtain information about a consumer. They complained that messages in which HRRG went by the name of “ARS” were insufficient to identify it as HRRG or even as “ARS ACCOUNT RESOLUTION SERVICES,” which is HRRG's alternative business name. The Third Circuit reversed, in part, the dismissal of the complaint, finding that the Levinses stated a plausible claim that HRRG violated section 1692e(14)’s “true name” provision, but have not stated plausible claims under 1692d(6) or 1692e(10). ARS is neither HRRG’s full business name, the name under which it usually transacts business, nor a commonly used acronym of its registered name. With respect to section 1692d(6), the court stated that the messages provided enough information about the caller’s identity for the least sophisticated debtor to know that the call was from a debt collector and was an attempt to collect a debt. Nothing in the messages rises to the level of being materially deceptive, misleading, or false under section 1692e(10). View "Levins v. Healthcare Revenue Recovery Group, LLC" on Justia Law

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In 2017, New Jersey replaced its system of pretrial release, which had long relied on monetary bail, based on a finding that the system resulted in the release of defendants who could afford to pay for their release, even if they posed a substantial risk of flight or danger to others, and the detention of poorer defendants who presented minimal risk and were accused of less serious crimes. Following a constitutional amendment, the New Jersey Criminal Justice Reform Act, 3 N.J. Stat. 2A:162–15, created a new framework that prioritizes the use of non-monetary conditions of release over monetary bail. The Reform Act establishes a multi-step process the court must follow when deciding to release or detain an eligible defendant after considering multiple factors. Plaintiffs challenged the Act as a violation of the Eighth Amendment, the Due Process Clause, and the Fourth Amendment, seeking a preliminary injunction to prevent the state “from taking any actions to enforce statutory provisions [of the Act] . . . that allow imposition of severe restrictions on the pre-trial liberty of presumptively innocent criminal defendants without offering the option of monetary bail.” The Third Circuit affirmed the district court, finding that there is no federal constitutional right to deposit money or obtain a corporate surety bond to ensure a criminal defendant’s future appearance in court as an equal alternative to non-monetary conditions of pretrial release. View "Holland v. Rosen" on Justia Law

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The Third Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Yahoo in a putative class action alleging that Yahoo violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) by sending plaintiff thousands of unsolicited text messages. In light of the D.C. Circuit's holding in ACA International v. FCC, the court interpreted the statutory definition of an autodialer as it did prior to the issuance of the 2015 Declaratory Ruling. Therefore, plaintiff could no longer rely on his argument that the Email SMS Service had the latent or potential capacity to function as autodialer. The court also held that plaintiff failed to provide evidence to show that the Email SMS Service had the present capacity to function as autodialer. View "Dominguez v. Yahoo, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Communications Law

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In 2006, Randall hired Business to Business Solutions to fax unsolicited advertisements for his roofing company to thousands of fax numbers. The first transmissions were sent on March 29 after Randall’s office manager, Clemmer, with Miley’s (the company’s president and co-owner) handwritten approval, confirmed by fax the content, the quantity of faxes t, and the areas to be targeted. Randall received complaints and Clemmer contacted Solutions to have several fax numbers removed from the list. On March 31, Solutions sent a second wave of faxes, which prompted several recipients to ask that their fax numbers removed. Two days later came a third burst of transmissions; on May 15, Solutions sent a final “blast” of 12,000 faxes. City Select, on behalf of itself and a class of similarly-situated fax recipients, sued Randall and Miley under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), 47 U.S.C. 227. The Third Circuit affirmed a judgment finding Miley not liable, upholding a jury instruction that asked whether Miley had “direct, personal participation at a level of involvement that was ‘significant.’” View "City Select Auto Sales Inc. v. David Randall Associates Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Communications Law

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Creditsmarts operates an internet-based business that helps independent car dealers connect customers with lenders. BMW offers direct automotive financing to customers through “up2drive.” In 2012, BMW and Creditsmarts entered into agreements, under which BMW would offer up2drive loans to borrowers at participating dealerships through Creditsmarts. Creditsmarts subsequently used the services of a fax broadcaster to fax about 21,000 advertisements to dealerships. The advertisements identified BMW and stated, “UpToDrive is looking for your BUSINESS!!” A list of recipients was generated from Creditsmarts’s customer database. Neither Creditsmarts nor Westfax retained lists of recipients. Plaintiff received a fax and alleges that it had no preexisting business relationship with Creditsmarts or BMW and that the fax was unsolicited. Plaintiff brought suit under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. 227, asserting claims under FRCP 23 on behalf of a class defined as: All auto dealerships that were included in the Creditsmarts database on or before December 27, 2012, with fax numbers … who were sent” BMW faxes on specific dates. The Creditsmarts database was not preserved as of December 2012 but was preserved as of February 2014. The Third Circuit vacated the denial of class certification. Precedent does not categorically preclude affidavits from potential class members, combined with the Creditsmarts database, from satisfying the ascertainability standard. Because the database was not produced during discovery, plaintiff was denied the opportunity to demonstrate whether a reliable, administratively feasible method of ascertaining the class exists View "City Select Auto Sales Inc v. BMW Bank of North America Inc" on Justia Law

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Susinno alleged that on July 28, 2015, she received an unsolicited call on her cell phone from a fitness company called Work Out World (WOW). Susinno did not answer the call, so WOW left a prerecorded promotional offer that lasted one minute on her voicemail. Susinno filed a complaint, claiming WOW’s phone call and message violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) prohibition of prerecorded calls to cellular telephones, 47 U.S.C. 227(b)(1)(A)(iii). The district court dismissed, reasoning that a single solicitation was not “the type of case that Congress was trying to protect people against,” and Susinno’s receipt of the call and voicemail caused her no concrete injury. The Third Circuit reversed, finding that the TCPA provides a cause of action and that the injury was concrete. The TCPA addresses itself directly to single prerecorded calls from cell phones, and states that its prohibition acts “in the interest of [ ] privacy rights.” View "Susinno v. Work Out World Inc" on Justia Law

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Geraci, part of a police watchdog group, attended an anti-fracking protest at the Philadelphia Convention Center, carrying her camera and a pink bandana that identified her as a legal observer. When the police acted to arrest a protestor, Geraci moved to record the arrest without interfering. An officer pinned Geraci against a pillar for a few minutes, preventing her from observing or recording the arrest. Fields, a Temple University sophomore, was on a public sidewalk where he observed officers across the street breaking up a party. He took a photograph. An officer ordered him to leave. Fields refused; the officer arrested him, confiscated and searched Fields’ phone, and opened several photos. The officer released Fields with a citation for “Obstructing Highway and Other Public Passages.” The charge was later withdrawn. Fields and Geraci brought 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims, alleging First Amendment retaliation. Although the Police Department’s official policies recognized their First Amendment right, the district court granted the defendants summary judgment on those claims, finding no evidence that plaintiffs’ “conduct may be construed as expression of a belief or criticism of police activity.” The Third Circuit reversed, noting that every circuit that has addressed the issue has found that the First Amendment protects the act of photographing or otherwise recording police officers conducting their official duties in public. View "Fields v. City of Philadelphia" on Justia Law