- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 25, 2003

Yesterday, the Senate and House of Representatives voted to reinstate the Do Not Call anti-telemarketing registry that a federal judge in Oklahoma City put on hold Tuesday night. The vote was 412-8 in the House and 95-0 in the Senate. That this resolute congressional action came just two days after Judge Lee West’s ruling speaks volumes of the popularity of the Do Not Call option and the repugnance for the court’s hauteur to dare to strike it down. The congressional reaction to the judge was a lesson in how fast a bill can become a law.

The judicial fiat attempted to overturn both elected branches of government. In February, the bill passed the House by a vote of 418-7 and the Senate by unanimous consent. In March, when the number to sign-up for the Do Not Call list was made public, President Bush had a Rose Garden ceremony with Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell and Federal Trade Commission Chairman Timothy Muris.

What Judge West found at fault was a simple law to ban unsolicited commercial speech. From a free-market perspective, it lets the person who pays for the phone line decide whether some outsider can come and use it. In practice, it is the same as putting a “no soliciting” sign on one’s front door. Because the court didn’t have a legal angle to reject the executive and legislative branches’ regulation of commercial speech, already highly regulated, Judge West claimed that the FTC didn’t have the authority to run the registry. Either way, Congress gave it to the agency yesterday. And the FCC will enforce it.

Rejecting the Do Not Call registry is the same sordid brand of judicial activism that motivated the recently reversed decision to stop the California recall vote. The judge’s ruling was a brazen example of judicial arrogance in repudiating the clearly expressed will of the people and their elected representatives. The popularity of the Do Not Call list — and the consociated annoyance at intrusive telemarketing practices — is overwhelming. As of November 2002, 104 million households had telephone service. To date, 50 million numbers have been put on the Do Not Call list — and it isn’t even planned to be active until October. If there has ever been a more clear mandate from the people, we can’t think of it.

From removing the Ten Commandments in courthouses to attempting to invalidate the California recall, it is clear that the federal bench needs a lesson in humility. Overbearing judges got one from Congress yesterday. Perhaps this will teach the courts not to mess with 50 million fed-up Americans. The arrogance of the judiciary and the regular disregard for the desires of the public are perversions of the democratic system of government. The country would be better off if judges were slapped around more often. Readers who want to share their opinions about unwanted phone calls with Judge West can contact his chambers at: (phone) 405-609-5140; (fax) 405-609-5151.

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