- Associated Press - Friday, March 7, 2014

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - The New Hampshire Supreme Court on Friday rejected an appeal by former Republican House Speaker Bill O'Brien, saying he suffered no harm from a 2010 primary election eve “Robocall” message from the state Democratic party.

O'Brien, a conservative, sought to run on both the Republican and on the Democratic ticket, which had a vacant slot.

The Democrats attempted to capitalize on this with a prerecorded message that O'Brien had asked to join the Democratic party and carry out its progressive agenda. The message went to nearly 400 households.

“If he wins tomorrow, we expect Bill O'Brien will embrace the Democratic Party’s platform, support President Obama, national health care reform and stand up for gay marriage and protect a woman’s right to choose,” the message from Democratic Chair Ray Buckley stated in part.

O'Brien did not secure enough votes on the Democratic primary to appear on the general election ballot as a Democrat, as well. But he was the top Republican vote-getter and handily won re-election.

The court said Friday O’Brien has no right to seek damages because he suffered no injury as a result of the ad. The court upheld the trial court’s interpretation of the Robocall law as being designed to protect the privacy of the persons receiving the automated phone calls, not the people mentioned in the ad.

O'Brien was seeking more than $1 million in damages. He arrived at that number by applying the $1,000 penalty to all 394 recipients of the call, then tripling the sum based on his claims that the Democratic party willfully violated the law.

The Robocall law requires that messages - within the first 30 seconds - identify the name of the candidate or organization the ad promotes and the group paying for the ad.

The court acknowledged that current law is unclear on whether candidates have jurisdiction to claim injury and sue under the Robocall statute. The justices invited the legislature to clarify that point by amending the law.

O'Brien’s lawyer, Edward Mosca, said the court’s analysis was flawed.

“The court did not define ‘injury’ before it concluded Mr. O'Brien had not suffered an injury,” Mosca said. “The court skipped that entire stop of the analysis.”

Former New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Kathy Sullivan called the decision “well-reasoned.”

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