Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson


OLYMPIA -- April 6, 2000 - The Attorney General's Office today formally requested that the State Supreme Court review a superior court ruling issued last month, which declared the state's anti-spam law violated the Interstate Commerce Clause of the U. S. Constitution.

"The First Amendment does not protect misleading commercial speech, and the Commerce Clause does not either," said Attorney General Christine Gregoire. "Companies who spam consumers for profit should not be able to hide behind the protection of the Constitution so they can continue to send deceptive e-mail to hundreds of thousands of consumers."

On March 10, King County Superior Court Judge Palmer Robinson dismissed the case the state filed against Jason Heckel and his company, Natural Instincts. Heckel was accused of sending unsolicited commercial e-mail, also known as "spam," to millions of internet users to sell his on-line booklet entitled, "How to Profit from the Internet." The lawsuit alleged that Heckel used a misleading subject line that read, "Did I get the right e-mail address?" to entice recipients to download and read his entire message. The suit also alleged the defendant posted an invalid return e-mail address to which recipients were unable to respond.

Washington's law, which went into effect in June of 1998, was one of the first in the country to regulate the sending of spam. The law prohibits the sending of unsolicited commercial e-mail that contains misleading information in its subject line, uses a third party's domain name without permission or misrepresents the message's point of origin.

Under state appellate court rules, when a superior court has declared a law unconstitutional, the state has the right to request that the case be directly reviewed by the Supreme Court.