A Maryland judge has tossed out a lawsuit against an alleged spammer, saying a state law restricting unsolicited e-mail is unconstitutional because it unfairly restricts interstate commerce.
Durke Thompson, a trial judge in Montgomery County, ruled that the Maryland law unduly discriminates against out-of-state commerce, a restriction that’s generally prohibited by the U.S. Constitution.
Thompson dismissed a lawsuit that a Maryland business had brought against a New York firm, First Choice Internet, saying in a ruling on Thursday that the company and its president “did not intentionally direct their e-mails” to Maryland residents.
“There’s no way for a person sending e-mail to know where the e-mail is going,” said Andrew Dansicker, a Baltimore lawyer representing First Choice Internet. “Until there is, it’s not fair to be passing statutes that penalize people for sending an e-mail.”
First Choice Internet was sued by a George Washington University law student, Eric Menhart, who formed a Maryland company to file lawsuits against what he believes to be offensive marketing practices. But the judge ruled that Menhart spent most of his time in Washington, D.C., not Maryland, and it would be unfair to require a sender of e-mail to guess where the correspondence would be read.
Dansicker predicts that the “reasoning of the court could apply to other states, especially if it’s upheld by the appeals court.”