U.S. Eighth Circuit - The FindLaw 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

I Don't Heart Huckabee? Mike Huckabee's Movie Faces Lawsuit

Not everyone can transition between politics and the silver screen as easily as Arnold Schwarzenegger -- or even Al Franken. Former Arkansas governor and perennial presidential candidate Mike Huckabee hasn't had an easy go of it.

In a case of "I Don't Heart Huckabee," the politician is facing a $5 million class action lawsuit alleging that he violated telemarketing laws by sending millions of prerecorded robocalls promoting the 2012 flop "Last Ounce of Courage." Huckabee's not getting any help from the Eighth Circuit, either, as that court just reversed a district court's dismissal and allowed the suit to go forward.

An Ounce of Courage and a Pound of Telemarketing

In 2012, Huckabee was working as a T.V. personality for Fox News and was brought on to help promote the conservative Christian film "Last Ounce of Courage." The film tells the story a rural mayor "fighting to bring religion back to this little town" after government Christmas services have been banned, perhaps because of Supreme Court precedent on the separation of church and state. The film was not a new American classic, receiving a score of 0 out of 100 on Rotten Tomatoes, the movie review aggregating website.

Its failure probably wasn't due to Huckabee, though. The ex-governor dutifully recorded automated phone messages that were sent out to millions, allegedly including to numbers listed on the federal "do not call" list. When phones went unanswered, the robocalls left a voicemail stating "Liberty. This is a public survey call. We will call back later."

First They Declare War on Christmas, Then on Telemarketing

When Ron and Dorit Golan received those messages, twice, they filed suit against Huckabee and the film's producers and marketers. The federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act prohibits, with few exceptions, the use of "an artificial or prerecorded voice to deliver a message" without the consent of the called party. It allows for actual damages or up to $1,500 per call in statutory damages, whichever is greater.

Since such robocalls often go out to thousands if not millions of homes, callers who flout the law can find themselves liable for millions -- which Huckabee and co. just might. After a district court threw out the suit for lack of injury, the Eighth Circuit reinstated it, noting the statutory right to recover that the law creates. The fact that Huckabee's message to the Golans did not mention the product he was hawking didn't matter, since the call was indisputably part of an ad campaign.

That means Huckabee could be on the line for a pretty penny as the case moves forward. That risk may be low on his priorities at the moment, however. Huckabee is currently running for President, again.

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