U.S. SC approves nuisance call lawsuits for federal court

Jessica M. Karmasek Jan. 18, 2012, 1:34pm


WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - The U.S. Supreme Court ruled this week that people can sue telemarketers and other businesses in federal courts, in addition to state courts, for nuisance phone calls.

Petitioner Marcus D. Mims had filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, alleging that Arrow Financial Services LLC, a debt collection agency, violated the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

Mims alleged Arrow used an automatic telephone dialing system, or prerecorded or artificial voice, to repeatedly call his cell phone without his consent.

The district court dismissed Mims' complaint for want of subject-matter jurisdiction, concluding that the TCPA had vested jurisdiction over private actions exclusively in state courts.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit affirmed.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a unanimous ruling Wednesday, held the TCPA's permissive grant of jurisdiction to state courts does not deprive U.S. district courts of federal-question jurisdiction over private TCPA lawsuits.

"We find no convincing reason to read into the TCPA's permissive grant of jurisdiction to state courts any barrier to the U.S. district courts' exercise of the general federal-question jurisdiction they have possessed since 1875," Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the nation's highest court.

Simply put, federal courts have jurisdiction over claims that arise under federal law, Ginsburg said.

"Because federal law gives rise to the claim for relief Mims has stated and specifies the substantive rules of decision, the Eleventh Circuit erred in dismissing Mims' case for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction," she wrote in the Court's 18-page opinion.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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