Supreme Court spurns challenge of N.D. 'do not call' law

By The Associated Press

BISMARCK, N.D. — The U.S. Supreme Court's refusal to consider a challenge of North Dakota's "Do Not Call" law is a victory for privacy rights, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem says.

The telemarketing law, passed in 2003, bars most organizations from making sales calls to homes if the phone number is listed on a state "do not call" list.

The North Dakota branches of the Fraternal Order of Police and the Veterans of Foreign Wars challenged the law, saying it hampered their fundraising activities.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law last December, saying it helped safeguard privacy without violating the free speech of charities.

The Supreme Court refused yesterday, without comment, to consider a challenge.

"We've had good success defending our 'do not call' law, which is probably the best in the country," Stenehjem said. "This is the second good victory in a month."

Last month, North Dakota's Supreme Court upheld restrictions on telemarketers' use of "robo-call" machines, rejecting a Virginia company's argument that federal law overrides North Dakota's rules. The decision affirmed a $20,000 penalty against Inc. for making political-survey calls to thousands of North Dakotans in 2004.

Grant Benjamin, a Fargo police officer who is president of the North Dakota FOP, said yesterday's Supreme Court ruling was expected. "It was a long shot and we knew it," Benjamin said. "It was not something we were counting on."

Charities are allowed to make fundraising calls to people on the no-call list, but only if they use employees or volunteers — not professional telemarketers.

Benjamin said his group, which has about 500 members in North Dakota, may hire employees to solicit donations. "We're looking at different options," he said. "We have to figure out a way to try and generate funds."

Law enforcement officers themselves likely won't become telemarketers, he said: "When officers are away from work, they want to spend time with their families."

Benjamin said the group also may begin mass mailings to reach potential donors. "It's had success in some states," he said.