“Judges confirmed, fears confirmed”Is a series of blogs documenting the damaging impact of President Trump’s judges on the rights and freedoms of Americans. Cases in the series can be found by number and by judge at this connect.
Trump’s Sixth Circuit Judge John Nalbandian wrote a dissenting opinion trying to overturn a damages judgment in favor of consumers who had been harassed by debt collection phone calls more than 300 times in violation of federal law. The majority, which included a judge appointed by President George HW Bush, rejected this view and upheld a judgment in favor of consumers in the July 2020 case of Allan v. Pa. Higher education. Assistance agency.
Jessica Wilson, with her co-signer Susan Allan, took out a student loan managed by PHEAA. After asking for loan repayment relief, which automatically consents to debt collection phone calls, Wilson and Allan asked the PHEAA to stop calling them in October 2013, as federal law allows. The PHEAA nonetheless continued to make robocalls, leaving messages for Wilson and Allan a total of 353 times without consent, sometimes multiple times a day. The PHEAA was able to do this by using a call list of stored numbers which would then be used to generate daily call lists.
Wilson and Allan filed a lawsuit in district court claiming that the PHEAA violated federal Consumer Protection Act by Telephone (TCPA). After the discovery, the court ruled in favor of Wilson and Allan on summary judgment and awarded them $ 176,500 in damages. The PHEAA appealed, alleging that its system did not constitute an Automatic Telephone Numbering System (ATDS) as prohibited by the TCPA.
Writing for the majority which included Eugene Siler, George HW Bush’s candidate, Judge Karen Moore upheld the district court’s ruling. She explained that TCPA’s ban on debt collection calls using an ATDS covers an automatic numbering system using a “stored list of numbers” like that used by the PHEAA, based on the text of the law and its “structure and context”. This was in accordance with the decisions of the Second and Ninth Circuits, she continued, although the Seventh and Eleventh Circuits disagreed. She carefully analyzed these four decisions and concluded that the second and ninth circuits were correct. If the law only applied to randomly generated calls as the other two circuits had suggested, Justice Moore noted, the TCPA’s exception for calls made in advance would have made no sense. A party consenting to a call must “give its number” to the calling party, she explained, which means that the calling party “dials a stored number” as opposed to a “number it has generated in a way. random”.
Judge Trump Nalbandian harshly expressed his dissent. His view, consistent with the Seventh and Eleventh Circuits, was that the TCPA only covers devices that “randomly or sequentially generate numbers” to call. But if that were the case, the majority replied, the ATDS definition would simply include devices that produce such numbers, “not to mention devices that store them,” as the statue explicitly does. Nalbandian’s interpretation is a “tense reading”, continued the majority, which “wrongly introduces the superfluous into the law”.
Therefore, following the majority decision, Wilson and Allan’s rights to avoid automated debt collection calls were upheld, along with damages in excess of $ 176,000. If it had been in Nalbandian, however, the decision to recognize and remedy the violation of those rights would have been overturned.
Note: The initial version of this blog post was prepared by PFAW Legal Intern Oliver Telusma.