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Creasy v. Charter Communs., Inc.

United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana

September 28, 2020, Decided; September 28, 2020, Filed

CIVIL ACTION NO. 20-1199 SECTION "F"

Opinion

ORDER AND REASONS

Before the Court are a pair of related motions brought by the defendant: a motion to dismiss under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), 12(b)(2), and 12(b)(6), and in the alternative, a motion to stay pending the Supreme Court's forthcoming decision in Facebook, Inc. v. Duguid, No. 19-511. For the reasons that follow, the motion to dismiss is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART, and the motion to stay is GRANTED.

Background

In this putative class action, the plaintiffs accuse the defendant Charter Communications, Inc. of repeatedly violating § 227(b)(1)(A)(iii) of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 [*2]  (TCPA), which prohibits almost all robocalls to cell phones. See 47 U.S.C. § 227(b)(1)(A)(iii). In 2015, Congress amended that provision's general robocall restriction to permit robocalls made to collect debts owed to or guaranteed by the federal government. That "government-debt exception" was short-lived. On July 6, 2020, the Supreme Court struck it down as an unconstitutional content-based restriction on speech and severed it from the rest of the statute. See Barr v. Am. Ass'n of Political Consultants (AAPC), 140 S. Ct. 2335, 207 L. Ed. 2d 784 (2020).

At primary issue here is that decision's effect on this Court's subject matter jurisdiction over this case. In its motion to dismiss, Charter contends that the Supreme Court's fractured decision1 in AAPC amounts to an adjudication that the entirety of § 227(b)(1)(A)(iii) was unconstitutional from the moment Congress enacted the offending government-debt exception to the moment the Court severed that exception to preserve the rest of the law in AAPC. Extending that premise to its natural conclusion, Charter argues that its alleged violations of an unconstitutional law are not enforceable in federal court.

The plaintiffs argue just the opposite: namely, that by severing the new-fangled government-debt [*3]  exception to preserve the general ban as a going concern, the Court confirmed that § 227(b)(1)(A)(iii) was constitutional all along. Thus, the plaintiffs suggest, Charter's conception of AAPC is fundamentally flawed, and as a result, its argument for dismissal under Rule 12(b)(1) is "just plain wrong."

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2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 177798 *

STACY CREASY, ET AL. v. CHARTER COMMUNICATIONS, INC.

CORE TERMS

robocalls, government-debt, plurality, telephone, message, ban, content-based, invalid, Mobile