“Judges may not rewrite the law simply because they think some new technology simply must be regulated right away.”
—Corbin K. Barthold, WLF Senior Litigation Counsel

Click here for WLF’s brief.

(Washington, DC)—Washington Legal Foundation today filed an amicus curiae brief urging the Supreme Court to adhere to textualist principles of statutory interpretation, even when the law at issue regulates fast-moving technology. The case is Facebook, Inc. v. Duguid, No. 19-511 (U.S.).

Enacted in 1991, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act bans the use of an autodialer for making unconsented calls to cellphones. Some courts have decided that the TCPA’s definition of an autodialer requires merely that a device be able to store telephone numbers and then dial them. Those circuits have been all too quick simply to enlist the TCPA’s overall “purpose” and Congress’s general “intent” in their cause. But as the petitioner in this case, Facebook, argues, the plain words of the TCPA clearly require that an autodialer use “a random or sequential number generator.”

WLF’s brief observes that the case fits within a larger pattern of unwarrantable expansion of the TCPA. In particular, courts have expanded the TCPA to cover text messages, even though the statute plainly covers only calls. Although it might seem like a good idea for a court to try to “fix” the TCPA to keep up with the times, doing so invites Congress to put off the hard work of crafting solutions itself. Only Congress can study a matter, hold hearings, and then pass a law that draws the necessary lines between abusive junk calls (and texts) and legitimate calls (and texts). In the meantime, the courts must apply existing law as written.

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