Designer Skin LLC v. S & L Vitamins, Inc., et al.
State of Washington v. Jason Heckel, d/b/a Natural Instincts
No. 98-2-25480-7 SEA (Wash. Super. Crt., King Co., March 10, 2000) reversed, 143 Wn.2d 824; 24 P.3d 404 (Wash. 2001) cert. denied (2001)
In a brief order, Washington Superior Court Judge Palmer Robinson declared Washington State's Unsolicited Electronic Mail Act, RCW 19.190.020 and RCW 19.190.030, unconstitutional on the grounds that it violates the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution because it is "unduly restrictive and burdensome" of interstate commerce.
According to the complaint filed in this action by the Washington State Attorney General, the defendant advertises the sale of his publication "How to Profit from the Internet" by sending millions of unsolicited e-mails to various individuals, both in and out of the State of Washington. Defendant is based in Salem, Oregon.
According to the complaint, the defendant's activities violate Washington State's "Anti Spam" law in a number of ways -- including incorporating misleading subject lines into his e-mails, which do not accurately describe the subject of the e-mail, in violation of RCW 19.190.030(1)(b), and misrepresenting the point of origin of his e-mails by inserting false information into the e-mail's path, in violation of RCW 19.190.030(1)(a).
The defendant moved for summary judgment on the ground that Washington's Unsolicited Electronic Mail Act violates the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution. Citing American Libraries Association, et al v. Pataki, et al, 969 F. Supp. 160 (S.D.N.Y. 1997), Cyberspace Communications Inc. v. Engler, 55 F. Supp. 2d 737 (E.D.Mich., July 29, 1999) and ACLU v. Johnson, 194 F.3d 1149 (10th Cir. 1999), the defendant argued that the statute ran afoul of the Commerce Clause for three reasons -- it regulates conduct taking place wholly outside of Washington, because the fact that e-mail addresses typically have no geographical location compels senders of unsolicited e-mails to check the addresses of all recipients to ensure that they did not reside in Washington, even if they have no intention of sending e-mail to Washington recipients; because it imposes burdens on interstate commerce that are greater than the gains it achieves via regulation, because of the difficulty in obtaining the actual geographical address of an e-mail recipient, and lastly, because it subjects the defendant to inconsistent regulation among the various states of the United States.
As set forth above, the court granted defendant's motion for summary judgment, and dismissed the complaint on the grounds that Washington's statute was unconstitutional because it violated the Commerce Clause.