Collector - May 2020 - 28

The 11th Circuit concluded that
neither system was an ATDS. The court
comprehensively analyzed the statutory
definition of an ATDS, beginning
with a textualist's primer in statutory
interpretation. The decision was written by
Judge Jeffrey Sutton, sitting by designation
from the 6th Circuit. Sutton was a former
clerk for the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice
Antonin Scalia, whose influence is clear
throughout the opinion.
Sutton began by examining whether
the phrase "using a random or sequential
number generator" modifies both verbs-"to
store" and "[to] produce"-or only "[to]
produce." The plaintiffs argued in favor
of the more expansive reading, while the
defendants argued the clause modifies both
verbs. The defendants further argued that
the plaintiffs' proposed interpretation would
expand the statute to cover "phone calls
that target a pre-existing list of prospects
or debtors, even though they were not
randomly or sequentially identified."
The court began where most do: noting
the lack of clarity in the TCPA. Looking
to the "conventional rules of grammar and
punctuation," however, the court found that
the phrase "using a random or sequential
number generator" modifies both "to store"
and "to produce."
Sutton acknowledged "the oddity of
'stor[ing]' telephone numbers using a
number generator," but noted that in reality,

28

"[s]omewhere between identification and
production, storage occurs." The court
also noted that "[i]f all you need to show is
storing and calling, that would apply to the
'capacity' of nearly every" telephone, whether
that telephone was "designed to produce
randomly generated numbers or not."
This harkens to the D.C. Circuit's same
admonishment in the hallmark ACA
International v. FCC decision, 885 F.3d 687
(D.C. Cir. 2018), where it invalidated an FCC
order that would include any smartphone in
the definition of an ATDS.
The Glasser decision also acknowledged
the legislative history of the TCPA, as well
as the technological history of automatic
dialing devices. For the first dozen years
following the passage of the TCPA, the
Federal Communications Commission
required random and sequential number
generation. Only in 2003 did the FCC
change its tune and expand the TCPA's
coverage to telephones that "merely stored
numbers and called them" (i.e., predictive
dialers). In the eyes of the 11th Circuit, a
shift in dialer technology, but not the statute,
prompted this change.
This global view of the statute and its
history led the 11th Circuit to a full-scale
rejection of the now-beleaguered and
increasingly isolated Marks v. Crunch San
Diego decision, 904 F.3d 1041 (9th Cir.
2018). The court expressly rebuffed the 9th
Circuit's holding that an ATDS encompasses

"devices with the capacity to automatically
dial telephone numbers from a stored list or
to dial telephone numbers produced from a
random or sequential number generator."
The court further noted that to adopt such
a reading of the statute-which requires
separation of the statute's two verbs ("to store
or produce")-looks like surgery rather than
interpretation.
The 7th Circuit's opinion in Gadelhak
followed the same pattern, including an
exhaustive examination of the statutory
language. And, while the district court
concluded that an ATDS is "equipment with
the capacity to store or produce telephone
numbers generated using a random or
sequential number generator as well as the
capacity to dial those numbers," the 7th
Circuit's analysis differed slightly.
Instead, the court found that the statutory
language requires an ATDS "to store or
produce telephone numbers to be called,
using a random or sequential number
generator; and . . . to dial such numbers."
The court noted that even this definition
had "difficulties," but the other possible
constructions did not fare better.
The court also rejected the definition
adopted by the 9th Circuit in Marks, finding
that the 9th Circuit's definition "requires us
to contort the statutory text almost beyond
recognition," necessitating "a significant
judicial rewrite" that is incompatible with
Congress's language.

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