Five years ago, a film called Last Ounce of Courage was released. Imagine Armageddon but with the asteroid replaced by the ACLU, and you have the plot. It was up to Christians to save Christmas from those damn liberals!
It was universally panned, with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 0%. And the filmmakers must have known this early on since they began robocalling millions of people urging them to go see the movie. Those robocalls were narrated by Gov. Mike Huckabee.
“Do you believe in American freedom and liberty? … Would you, like me, Mike Huckabee, like to see Hollywood respect and promote traditional American values?” Huckabee said in the calls, according to court documents. “I am an enthusiastic supporter of a new movie called ‘Last Ounce of Courage.’ It is a film about faith, freedom, and taking a stand for American values.”
3.2 million calls like that were made, and they all ran afoul of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which prohibits commercials calls without the consent of the person you’re calling. A class action lawsuit was eventually filed against the man whose companies made those robo-calls, Gabriel Joseph III.
Since the maximum fine is $500 per call, we’re talking $1.6 billion at stake here.
On Thursday, a U.S. District Judge ruled that Joseph would have to pay a reduced fine of $32.4 million.
[Judge E. Richard] Webber wrote that $1.6 billion in damages would be “obviously unreasonable and wholly disproportionate to the offense.” He said the $10 per call penalty “reflects the severity of the offense,” and will help deter “invasions of privacy, unwanted interruptions and disruptions at home, and the wasted time spent answering unwanted solicitation calls or unwanted voice messages.”
Webber ruled on the case last month, but didn’t award damages until Thursday.
The plaintiffs are unhappy with the reduced fine, but still. It’s a lot of money to pay for pushing Mike Huckabee’s voice on unsuspecting people.
The team marketing a Christian film broke the law because the movie was so bad that word of mouth wasn’t going to do it any favors.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch notes that Joseph may not be able to pay the fine. His lawyer said that his companies “are going out of business.”
(Thanks to Scott for the link)