tv Politics and Public Policy Today CSPAN May 24, 2016 3:00pm-5:01pm EDT
collectively represent million of american consumers. we believe robo calls cause a severe problem. we ask that you defend the tcpa and work to strengthen it. 25 years ago, the tcpa was passed because of the complaints about robo calls which are still pouring in. robo calls cost only a tiny fraction of a penny per call. making it cheaper for businesses to make the calls than to be careful about who they are calling. the tcpa was designed today insure that consumers control who robo calls them on their cell phone, by requiring express consent before the calls can be made. unless there is an emergency and many of the examples that senator thune raised were exceptions that were already in the law. the industry is making extravagant claims about
spurious lawsuits and wrongful class actions churning new claims litigating tcpa. all to support their insistence that the law be changed. yet the judicial system has a robust mechanism to protect against meritless claims. as tcpa claims don't lead to attorney's fees, the costs of initiating investigating and litigating a lawsuit already restricts these cases, only to those in which numerous illegal calls have been made. in 2015, there were over three and a half million complaints to the ftc, far more than any other issue for robo calls. for every 1,000 complaint, only one lawsuit was filed. most consumers who have received unwanted robo calls don't complain to a federal agency. only 1/10 of 1% of those that did complain filed.
here are a few of many examples of the cases brought to stop the unwanted barrage of robo calls. yahoo sent 27,000 wrong number text messages to one consumer refusing to stop even after the fcc got involved to ask them to stop. state farm bank made 327 robo calls to one consumer in six months, seeking to collect a debt owed by someone else. time warner cable used an automated system involving zero human capacity to make 153 robo calls to a woman who had never been a customer, including 74 calls made after she filed suit. in all of these cases business entities set loose an automated system that called a consumer's phone multiple times, even after the consumers repeat attempts to stop the calls.
in each case the caller had decided it was simply more cost effective to ignore the express wishes of these consumers and continue to make these automated calls. 70 million people approximately rely on this country on prepaid or life line cell phones which provide a fixed number of minutes. many of these consumers are low income. and they rely on these limited minutes for essential calls. an unwanted robo call eat into the essential minutes. any one of the industry proposals would lead to the receipt of more unwanted robo calls to all cell phone users and would be devastating to these users with limited minutes. for example, the industry argues the fcc's long standing definition of auto dialer is wrong. based on the notion that the
current definition covered too many instruments. this making the distinction effectively meaningless. but the definition the industry proposes would exclude all of the technology that's currently being used to make calls. unfortunately, section 301 of the budget act passed last october to create an exemption to the tcpa that permits collectors of federal debt primary student loan borrowers as well as taxpayers pursued by private collectors to be made without the consent of the consumer. this is dangerous precedent that will impact over 61 million americans and it should be repealed. we strongly support the hangup act which repeals section 301. it's evident consumers need more protection from such abuses, not less. continued enforcement of the tcpa is critical and we ask that
you support consumers in this battle. thank you. >> thank you, ms. saunders. >> chairman thune and members of the committee. thank you for the opportunity to submit this testimony for the record. i serve as the national legal counsel for the american association of healthcare administrative management. which is a national organization actively representing the interest of healthcare administrative management professionals through a comprehensive program of legislative and regulatory monitoring and participation in many industry groups. i appreciate you holding the hearing today. as you know the fcc last july ruled on more than 20 petitions seeking clarifications to the telephone consumer protection act and the tcpa rules. we were one of the petitioners and sought a clarification of what prior consent means. as well as a partial exemption from the act to facilitate important healthcare related calls. the fcc's ruling did not clarify consent and exempted certain type of calls. they cannot be financial in
nature. because of the ambiguity of the term prior express consent and related entities are protected many well-intended healthcare organizations have been sued and tcpa litigation continues to sky rocket. to be clear, healthcare providers cannot do their jobs effectively, efficiently or cost effectively without using appropriate technology. the tcpa inhibits the use of such technology and as a result drives the cost of healthcare higher. the tcpa was intended to protect consumers from receiving unsolicited telemarketing calls in their homes at all hours of the day and night by restricting the use of auto dialers and requiring consent to be called. we fully support the goal and mission of the tcpa in helping to reduce unsolicited telemarketing calls. the complaints mentioned today are not involving healthcare providers. despite the positive intent, 25 years since its passage the tcpa
has become out dated. it prevents americans from receiving non-marketing service messages they want including appointment reminders. insurance eligibility issues. social security disability eligible. and payment options. credit card fraud alerts. notifications of travel changes. package delivery information and many more. further it prevents them from receiving the communications on devices they prefer, specifically their mobile telephones. 90% of u.s. house holds relied on their home or land line phone. today the trend is away from land line phones. since the enactment of the tcpa the use of text messaging has exploded. in 2012 more than $2.9 trillion text messages were sent and received. this could not have been anticipated when the tcpa was first enacted. new laws and regulations have
been passed that make compliance more difficult. two examples of the affordable care act and the new irs regulations dealing with charitable hospitals. the aca requires hospitals and out patient clinics to perform post discharge follow up with patients to reduce the rate of readmission which is a big contributor to the cost of healthcare. we know the reminders surveys and education that have proven to lower readmission rates can be successfully and cost effectively conducted by phone. however this cannot be economically done under the current tcpa. similarly, the irs is 501 r regulations create a mandate. they require hospitals to make reasonable inquiries. by requiring the use of more labor intensive methods, the tcpa decisions have added
unnecessary expense, diverting resources that could be dedicated to patient care. in today's technologically burgeon society it makes no sense for the fcc to allow technology to be contacted via land line but not cell phones. the fcc is looking at the modernization of the tcpa in the wrong way. the fcc should be looking at balancing the needs of consumers to obtain healthcare and other information quickly and efficiently through their mobile devices. and, also, be protected by the strong anti-telemarketing rules that already exist. we urge congress to modernize the tcpa to allow automated dialing technology to be used to text or call mobile phones as long as these texts or calls are not for telemarketing purposes. modernization of the tcpa in the healthcare arena is not a partisan issue. we should keep pace with the needs of today's consumers and businesses. it's about government working to
bring healthcare costs down for consumers, not drive them up by continuing to require adherence to out dated rules and regulations. the current tcpa invites parties to pressure care givers for huge payouts. lawsuits even unsuccessful ones extraordinary time cost and effort to defend. thus rob hospitals of the ability to fulfill their mission. which is delivering quality healthcare at a reasonable cost. thank you for this opportunity. if you have any questions feel free to contact me. i would love to work with the committee. >> thank you. good morning, chairman, ranking member nelson and members of the committee. thank you very much for the opportunity to address the effects of the tcpa on consumers and businesses. i'm a partner at squire patten bogs i'm testifying in my individual capacity and not on behalf of a specific client. i spent over a decade in senior
positions at the fcc. in private practice i worked with a wide range of clients in various industry sectors on tcpa compliance. they all share one very serious dilemma. how to manage risk in an environment where the normal expected or desired way to communicate is by calling a cell phone or sending a text and industry standards require certain out bound communications via a call or a text. but where every single call to a cell phone or every single text carries with it the potential risk of damages. when congress implemented the tcpa it struck a careful balance in protecting consumers from abusive calls. that made them feel frightened and harassed.
protecting public safety entities and businesses from the jammed phone lines caused by specialized dialing equipment that automatically dialled thousands of numbers and protecting normal expected or desired communications. today, there are no longer any safe guards protecting callers from tcpa liability for normal communications. it doesn't matter if you're a national bank, a local blood bank or tyra banks you may have obtained prior express consent. but you will never know for certain before you make a call whether that number has been reassigned. the fcc created a safe harbor but it doesn't work. the safe harbor doesn't apply after one single reassigned call. whether or not there's any actual knowledge of a reassignment. you may be using modern technology that does not use or
even have a random number generator. but according to the fcc, you're still using an automatic telephone dialing system if your equipment has something more than the theoretical potential to be modified at some hypothetical point in the future to become an atbs. no one knows what it means. it's not workable and not what congress intended. as a result, beneficial consumer communications are chilled. compliance minded entities are put into a catch-22. consumers trying to manage default and companies trying to engage in financial education are punished. first, many types of important and beneficial consumer communications trigger tcpa risk in the current environment, including communications from utilities to warn of service outages, mobile health programs such as text for baby. schools to provide attendance notifications. credit unions to provide low balance alerts. political candidates to provide information regarding town halls and election information.
the list goes on and on and on. second, while the environment surrounding communications has become increasingly punitive. other regulatory agencies are encouraging and even requiring contact through phone calls and texts. companies are diverting resources from core business functions and taking inefficient steps to mitigate risks. for example, companies are replacing modern technologies which have many consumer benefits with low tech system and fat finger dialing. this creates a higher risk of wrong number calls. larger companies with more resources are paying for multiple data bases without an assurance of additional accuracy. small businesses often can't afford to do so. companies are requiring consumers to provide notice of any phone number change. and subjecting them to lawsuits for failure to do so. finally, i want to emphasize that not getting a call doesn't mean that a debt will go away. what a call is likely to do if a person is reached is educate the
consumer about available repayments option and potentially avoid negative consequences such as the shutting off of a service, bad credit report, foreclosure or other legal remedy. the department of education stated when services are able to contact a borrower they have a better chance helping the borrower resolve the delinquency. i appreciate the commerce committee wants to understand how the tcpa is impacting consumers and businesses today. i have three recommendations for restoring the balance that congress works so hard to achieve. first, i would ask congress to support the creation of a reassigned numbers data base and allow a safe harbor for any caller who checks against the data base to confirm that a number has not been reassigned. a second quicker step would be for congress to confirm that when it created a statutory defense for prior express
consent of the called party, it did not intend for that defense to be meaningless. third, congress should confirm that when it defined an automatic telephone dialing system it did not intend to broadly sweep into the definition any and every modern dialing technology. congress did not intend to for the tcpa to be a trap. and with consumers ultimately suffering the consequences. thank you and i look forward to your questions. >> thank you. let's start with five minute rounds of question. i'll start with ms. wallquist. the fcc has concluded service outages interruptions and supply of water gas or electricity could in many instances pose significant risk to public health and safety and the use of rerecorded message calls could speed the dissemination of information regarding service
interruptions or other potentially hazardous conditions to the public end quote. nonetheless, despite receiving consent a number of utilities have faced litigation and potentially ruinous judgments for making such calls. do you agree that the commission action on the edison electric institute's and the american gas association's petition for declaratory ruling filed with the commission over a year ago would help utilities avoid meritless but costly litigation for these notices? do you think that ruling is long overdue? >> i would agree it would be helpful to the electric companies to have that ruling. i agree it is overdue. i'm concerned it would be one more exception that the fcc would add into the check box of here's a few kinds of calls we think are okay. and in the 2015 order, they listed a few and this would add a few more.
so the electric companies can say something about outage. and the problem is there's all of these other calls that consumers would want that they've signed up for and asked that businesses are afraid to make or if they're making they're getting sued under the tcpa. i think the fcc does need to rule on that order. and i don't know why it wasn't in the earlier ruling. people need to know if there's power outages. one of the petitions pointed out people have medical equipment at home that relies on power. we need to be able to alert them to an outage. that should be ruled on. i think there needs to be a much bigger look across the board as calls that are legitimate calls that are generating lawsuits. >> in a recent hearing, let me take a moment to acknowledge a
positive development which is a decision some banks and credit unions have made to provide consumers realtime information about the funds in their accounts available to be spent. they are doing this through text and e-mail alerts which can reduce the risks that consumers inadvertently overspend, end quote. how can banks, credit unions and other financial constitutions increase communication with their consumers if they have the threat of tcpa litigation hanging over their heads? >> thank you, you raise a very important point. there are all types of time sensitive consumer beneficial communications such as the example you raises available funds to reduce the risk of overspending but also high purchase alerts, low balance alerts. these types of time sensitive communications are only possible through modern technology. these communications can't be made through a rotary phone. and this is the heart of the challenge, not only for my financial institution clients,
but frankly, all of my clients who engage in communications with consumers and with their customers. they are paying a significant cost for the additional risk that any time sensitive communication they make runs the risk of being sent to a reassigned number. and that is a factor that they cannot fully control. as a result, many of my clients are choosing to decrease beneficial elective communications through cell phone or text because they know that every single one of these communications does carry that additional risk. >> you stated the quote the practical impact of tcpa restrictions on the care provider community is devastating. end quote.
i'm wondering, if you could elaborate on what that devoting so many resources to tcpa compliance means for patient care. >> thank you, i think that's the most important question i could be asked today. it does impact upon patient care, which is the most important aspect of providing healthcare. as any other enterprise a hospital has to make economic decisions when they are dealing with a finite pot of resources. if resources have to be dealt to dealing with the tcpa. if that impacts the number of nurses that are there to treat patients, it reduces the direct interaction between the nurses and the patient. the delivery of direct follow up instructions. other instructions with regard to the patient care. there have been studies done by the department of health and human services, the agency for research and quality has found the reduction in nursing staffing has a direct relationship to negative patient outcomes with regard to the treatment of their conditions. so the more resources that have to be dedicated to the non-use of up to date technology, calls from that pool of talent that is
not being directed to patient care. and i don't think that's something we want to do as a nation. >> my time has expired. i'll hand it over to mr. nelson. >> i'm going to defer my questions until later. i want to introduce a thought. the law says it's illegal robo calls on cell phones. yet consumers receive millions of those robo calls on cell phones. can you imagine if we made it legal what would happen? i'm going to defer and let our members ask their questions first. >> senator blount. i'm sorry, that's right. we'll keep it even. blumenthal not here. senator mccaskill. >> so this is not that complicated. all you have to have is the
permission of the person you're calling and call them. i mean you guys make this sound like this is an impossible thing to do. you have somebody who leaves your hospital and you guys can't manage to get their permission to follow up with them by phone and call them? why is that so economically difficult for you? >> thank you. the problem is, the plaintiff's bar has taken the opportunity to twist the language with regard to the use of consent. and has chosen to sue most of the members of my association with regard to the inexactitude of the language involved in the consent process. consent is obtained through the conditions of admission. when someone is admitted to the hospital. that's a written document that's signed by the patient. the language is torn -- >> why don't you just do a simple when someone checks out of a hospital, why don't you present them a simple card and
say do you mind if we call you on follow up and have them sign that. i don't think lawyers would have much luck. if you are settling those cases shame on you. take them to try and kick them in the rear in the courtroom. that's what you do. you don't like, come -- you guys need to understand this, this is the biggest consumer problem in the country. no bigger problem. and some of these witnesses you all are in here whining about these poor business and consumers really want these. they don't want them. they don't want them. they do not want -- when somebody has a reassigned number you need to call them 40 times to figure out. that was your time. what about mail can you drop them a note in the mail and figure out they have a different phone number? >> senator, the problem is that not all the numbers are reassigned. there are numbers that are wrongly provided from the start. if it was just that one number,
it would be the issue. the issue is that as long as there's one number then a class action is brought. you have a class action, there was no statute of limitations put into the tcpa when it was drafted. all phone calls made by that company for four years are put at issue. that's what makes it not simple. >> let me ask you, mr. zeller, have the complaints gone down or up on robo calls in the last several years? >> they've gone up every year in our office. we're on track to set all new records, yet this year. >> so you would think that if in fact, these lawsuits were really damaging the cost of doing business in this country, you would see the opposite impact, wouldn't you? attorney general? >> well, you know, i think the massive amounts of phone calls are not from people being represented here. so the problem we have are the bulk calls that come from overseas where none of us have the ability other than i guess
i'll throw the fcc under the bus, that they're the only ones who can regulate those huge massive calls that originate outside our jurisdiction. without enforcement ability those are the ones that really are let's say well over half of the complaints we get. >> i know you work with my attorney general closely. in the few months the lawsuits he's brought against an insurance company, lawn care service home security company and a charity for violating missouri law. this is a real problem. by the way, i would just suggest this, i know that the carriers are all members of the chamber. we know from hearings we've had in this committee that the technology is available. the carriers could adopt. and it's been clarified by the
fcc there is no duty to connect calls. that prohibits them from adopting this technology. they can adopt the technology and make it available to the consumers that allows the consumers to opt out. without having to take these calls. and what we're really trying to do here, we're not trying to punish people with litigation. we're trying to put power in the hands of the consumer. and this may not be the most artful way to do it. but i will just speak for me. and i think probably for a whole lot of people who run for office that hang out around here, if you think i'm backing up on going after people who make robo calls, in light of what i encounter every day from people i meet, including my own family? i mean, my son can't get two companies to quit calling him on his cell phone. he handed the phone to me. you know, i said, i'm u.s. senator i'm going to sue you. guess what? they called him 15 minutes later. >> i think that those are really the bad actors that need to be targeted that have been getting
targeted and continue would have liability under whatever modification you're doing to the tcpa. i'm not saying when somebody receives notice this is a wrong number and they receive it in a reasonable way where they know. the calls should stop. if they haven't -- >> but they don't. ask ms. saunders. they don't stop. >> she has some examples of ones that didn't. i have policies and procedures in place with most of my clients. where it works for 99% of the time. you have human error, you have something that doesn't happen. you might have a vendor that hasn't been following the company's procedures and policies and didn't record the do not call. companies don't want to call people that aren't their clients. we're trying to convey customers there is no desire to continue to call someone who is not a customer with the information. >> it doesn't feel like that on the receiving end.
that's not the perception consumers have. thank you, mr. chairman. >> we'll go to the other half of the missouri duo here. senator blount. >> thank you, chairman. what i think attorney general said was that half of the robo calls come from out of the country. what could we do about that? >> senator that's a great question. again, between, you know, addressing this with the fcc, which has the regulatory authority. and the carriers which i'll agree with the senator, your colleague, that they do have some ability. they pointed to one another for years. so up until recently, i've always been critical of the fcc and their failure to regulate. the carriers have always said we're nervous about whether we have the ability to use the technology. now, that they passed the rule,
which we've long asked for, the ball is back to the carriers to say why aren't you using the technology that's currently available to block some of these -- we're not talking about any of the types of calls that you're hearing about. these are the massive calls that literally call everybody in a area code. when i get the complaint, i literally tell people don't feel too special because they called 9,999 other people that same minute. so it's only the fcc and the carriers, somewhere in that finger pointing is the answer to your question. >> well, it seems to me that one of the things you said is exactly the gist of what we're talking about. we're talking about two different problems. we're talking about massive robo calls. half of them, based on your information from outside the country, and then the other thing is people legitimately trying to contact someone whose number they either no longer have or never had given to them
in the correct way. surely there's some way we can separate the discussion to where we deal with these problems in the way they ought to be dealt with. you know, i've heard that some banks, for instance, no longer even try to notify on what they would see as a routine problem i'd like to be notified of o. some activity in my account that doesn't seem to make sense, but -- is that where they don't notify me because they think they might be calling a number that they're not sure of? is that a real problem? >> yes, and the american bankers association actually submitted a filing on exactly that issue. i mean, it is a problem. you know, i wish it was as easy as just simply getting consent. once you have consent you have to be able to rely on the consent.
the problem with tpca liability the way it's been interpreted is you can not rely on that consent there is no way of knowing if a number has been reassigned. that's where there are increasing numbers of bank and other institutions that are afraid to make routine calls or send routine messages. >> does anybody on the panel know, how long does it take to reassign a number? if i give up my cell phone number, is there a definite period that that can't be available to anybody else? how long does it take it before somebody else is answering the number i used to have that i gave the hospital or i gave the bank or i gave the college? how long might it be before somebody else has that number? >> senator, it depends on the provider of the cell phone number. i think it could be as short at 30 days. some providers wait six months before reassignment. it's kind of a hodgepodge. and part of the problem also is the business doesn't know who the cell phone provider is on
any given number. you wouldn't know the time frame in which it's switching out. >> if it was six months -- say we had a rule you couldn't do it any quicker than six months, anybody that got my cell phone number earlier than six months wouldn't have any certainty it was still my number, is that right? until they called it? does that sound right to you? >> yes, sir. but i think the cell phone companies may not agree to wait six months. because some cell phone companies have a smaller batch of numbers they're going to want to recirculate. but if i might, i think that several of us agree on this panel that one way of dealing with the calls to reassign numbers is for there to be a mandatory data base that all cell phone companies participate in that would allow callers to access and ask when was the last time this particular phone number was transferred. once that answer is provided, the caller would know whether or not they had valid consent.
and the problem with the situation now is apparently there are no full data bases that are -- include all the cell phone companies. so i think several of us on different sides of this issue have all been encouraging both the cell phone companies and the fcc to either voluntarily do this or mandate it. that would solve a lot of the litigation about the wrong number calls. >> it just seems to me mr. chairman that we've got two very different problems here. one it's really easy to be outraged about. and the missouri delegation, senator mccaskill usually deals with the outrage better than i do. al i appreciate that. and i like to see that happen. >> it's called good cop bad cop. >> maybe so. the other one is a problem that
we're all sympathetic to, if we could figure out how to divide this discussion into those two categories, we're much more likely to find a solution to both problems than not. i hope we can figure out how to do that. >> thank you, senator blount. that suggestion, is one we may want to explore and take a look at if everybody sort of agreed that would make sense. i know definitely in the missouri delegation of having to call somebody i'm going to call the good cop. somebody doesn't like unsolicited phone calls. i have next senator cobeshar. >> thank you mr. chairman. so i'm a co-sponsor of the hangup act to repeal a provision from the bipartisan budget act of 2015 allowing robo calls to cell phones for the collection of debt owed to the government.
ms. saunders, in your testimony, you estimate this provision would impact 61 million people. you also point out in many cases debt collectors do not have accurate information about who owes a debt. you testified that 90% of the debt collection complaints your office received year was because the caller was harassing the wrong person. in both of your opinions how significantly does it undermine robo calling protections? we just did the senior tour around minnesota, our staff and my own experiences meeting with people, robo calls are still one of the number one things they list as something that is they're angry about. you know all about it. ms. saunders? >> we think the provision is very dangerous. one of the concerns -- one of the many concerns i have heard
is that the ftc and other government agencies tell people not to answer any robo calls. the ftc has said publicly repeatedly the irs won't call you. but now because the irs can hire debt collectors and because the irs debt collectors can robo call without consent, that advice from the ftc is no longer available. yet, how do people who are receiving the scam calls know the difference? and so i can go on. but the problem is tremendous. and it is not a good resolution to allow consumers who owe money to be called more. >> yes. attorney general? >> you know, i'll add to that. my earlier focus about, you know, in carving out the exception, we may well have lost the ability to defend the tcpa as a constitutional matter.
because, again, in our experience going up through the indiana and in the seventh circuit court of appeals. it was because we didn't distinguish between the types of calls being prohibited, it was neutral. once you start today carve this out -- i think it almost goes back to the point about looking at these things differently. the very different part about creating a better defense, we're not against defending. and i think it would go a long way to eliminate some of the frivolous litigation. i'm not here to defend the trial bar. but i think to create a better defense as opposed to an exception. once you've got these exceptions, our ability to defend the statutes is compromised. >> you point to a rise in the phone scams involving government impersonation. i know often these scams involve someone spoofing to try to fool a victim into thinking they're
someone calling from the government. if we don't pass this hang up act, or some kind of strong anti-spoofing legislation, do you think you would see more of this going on? >> well, i got a little bit numb to it until they started to spoof using office of the indiana attorney general. >> there you go. >> i'll stand as outraged. >> okay. that's pretty bad. you've had people use your own office name as -- what were they calling to say that they wanted to do? >> there were a number of issues. again, the fact that i was constantly telling people, you know, to be careful of this. the spoofing. and that you can't really rely on it. they can put any number up there. okay it's another violation of the law. but by the time they were using mine it was because we were so public about, of course, you can trust the office of the attorney general. what little credibility my office tries to maintain and trust, i was being used against us.
>> exactly. it's been 13 years now since the do not call registry was started. there are more than 222 million numbers on the list. there are more complaints than ever. robo calls and text spamming have proliferated due to advanced technologies which were discussed here earlier. again, to both of you, you know that more needs to be done to protect consumers. what in your opinion is the limitations of the do not call program in addressing the current robo calling problem? >> i think we've mentioned it here and it's the spoofing problem. and while i very much appreciate senator nelson's bill on anti-spoofing, we really think that the law needs to be much more heavy handed and require that the cell phone -- all of the phone companies adopt anti-spoofing technology. i find it hard to believe in
this day and age with the technologies out there. the technology -- >> senator nelson's bill and also add in this? >> yes, ma'am. >> attorney general? >> while we're doing that, the idea of having some ability to stop all the illegal ones that are being done from overseas, i think that's something that technology has gotten us into this problem and we really need to focus on how can it get out so when the fcc passed their recent regulation, i know the carriers were concerned they were going to require the use of the technology to block the overseas call when that wasn't in there, there was a sigh of relief but we were s. hoping it would be. >> i'm not going to do anything more, but i've been doing a lot of the call completion issue and dropped calls, so i'll put
something on the record. we're hope iing to have a mark on that soon. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i brought along a phone from 1992. the size of it is only exceeded by its weight. it would make a good boat anchor. this is 25 years old. it's approximately the same time the last time the tcpa was enacted. we can see how far technology has come from this device to what i have in my hand. it's reduced the need for a lot of phone calls because the power of the knowledge where i can make an airline reservation i can do a lot of things here. 25 years later unwanted phone calls are still among the top consumer complaints. even when consumers do file lawsuits for violations, it seems like the trial lawyers are the only ones that truly benefit. i have heard the tcpa has even
been referred to with the nickname the total cash for plaintiffs attorneys. consumers are still receiving unwanted calls. your testimony you said the average pay out to the trial lawyers on a case was $2.4 million while the consumer average pay out was $4.12. is the tcpa really helping consumers today. >> i just really don't think that it is. the abuses that are happening on the litigation side mean that it's really become a lawyer driven constitute when we have the suits for it.
and the kinds of calls that are driving everyone crazy, and i get them too. the spoofed calls and that's not what is getting. nobody would sue for that. there's no pocket at the end of it. so i have a restaurant client that had an opt in put on their menu if you want to get our coupons on a weekly basis. text us this and we'll start sending them to you. this thing that a lot of people joined up for and were doing. one text message that was sent that one plaintiffs lawyer brought a suit oand suddenly my client is facing $32 million in statutory damages for that single text message that went to the club. and stopped the club. nobody's getting the coupons anymore and this kind of thing doesn't benefit consumers. now, nobody's getting their coupons. >> a state like montana, we have a lot of small businesses. they're not trying to call their customers to sell them products they don't need.
they're not inundating them with texes and faxes, but they are trying to reach their customers to remind them of appointments or alert them to a potential service disruption. is it reasonable to ask small businesses to comply with the 2015 tcpa order? >> i think the interpretations provided by the fcc in 2015 were particularly damaging for small businesses. they have no way of checking -- they shouldn't have to check a database to see if the number they were provided by their own customer has suddenly been reassigned. it's expensive for a small business to have to turn to manual dialing in order to reach their customers. >> so i grew up in a small business. my mom and dad owned a construction business. their compliance department would be my mom and dad versus a large business where it could be
an entire wing of a headquarters building. so what kinds of compliance costs and challenges with these small businesses face? >> in order to be completely sure that they are using dialing equipment that won't trigger tcpa liability, they'd have to invest in a rotary phone, if they could find one. they would have to try to figure out on a regular basis whether the numbers that they have been provided are still accurate. i don't have dollar figures for you. even my large clients, who have thousands of employees have a difficult time trying to figure out how to manage tcpa risk. i can't imagine what a small
company would have to do. >> i want to bring up this issue of rural health care in states from more rural states. if you visit montana, hospitals are not around every corner. patients rely on technology to communicate with their doctors often times. can you explain how the application impacts patients and world communities who do not have easy access to a clinic? >> certainly. i would think that the impact on a rural community would be more devastating than one in a metropolitan community. the interaction between the physician and health care provider is a sacred relationship. if there is this ability to follow up on in patient care to provide instructions with regard to further care, remind people about prescription pickups, appointments, it all would be devastating to the effectiveness of the health care that's provided. one of the things that the health care community is trying to do is cut down on
readmissions. it's a strain on when a patient isn't treated the first time in the rush to discharge them. with adequate instruction and interaction between the caregiver and the patient, readmissions will reduce and the overall cost of health care will go down. the inability to use the most current technology to pursue that end is devastating to the industry and just causes more cost and more administrative draining of revenue that impacts on patient care. it reduces the availability of the caregiver to the patient. that's the essence of the relationship with regard to health care. >> thank you. >> thank you, senator. just want to know where the senator from montana came up with that vanilla ice. vintage mobile phone there, please tell me you got that in a museum. >> doing curls in the jim every
day. senator blumenthal? >> thanks, mr. chairman. if there is a form of consumer complaint that is common and passionate among the people of connecticut, it is unwanted calls. whether from telemarketers or local officials or politicians and among those calls the most aggravating and annoying are the robocalls. if we overlook the anger and aggravation caused by these calls, we are doing a great disservice to the people of america and they want stronger measures like the ones that i and senator markey have composed that give consumers more control over the calls they receive.
that's essentially it. whether it's from government authorities, there's no question there is no question in my mind that the present law neither to be updated and to provide better, swifter, stronger protection. because this problem is only going to increase. you do what i used to do for 20 years. a lot of your man dade is consumer protection are you finding an increase in the number of complaints as i have received, for example, from a 76-year-old woman in dayville connecticut who says to me i'm
weary of all the robo-calls i receive, can't the senate -- a 76-year-old research scientist, i have reams of complaints from people who are upset about these calls, quote, every day i get unwanted robo-calls, most annoys. i have recorded these to the no-call list, but nothing is done. that's the reason we have a private rite of acts. you all remember the days we had some protection.
we literally had quiet at home, so from going from the perspective that people knew they could be stopped, they understood that something was going right, that i government had protected them, to the point where now the vast majority have taken out their land lines, when he tell them believe it or not the u.s. congress is thinking about opening up new exemptions to allow robo-calls they're outrage. you really risk the fear that people are going to come here with pitchforks and torches. this is a very passionate -- and i have plenty of those same stories, so you're right on the money. >> i've heard the verbal pitch forks and worse, and i think you're absolutely right. for a congress that has done so little to do something so bad as
to dilute the consumer protection laws would be absolutely outrageous. let me ask, ms. saunders, what do you think is preventing the implementation of call-blocking software? again, giving consumers control, empowering consumers is basically the goal of these laws. it's not to restrict calls that consumers want. it's to enable consumers to stop the calls that they find bothersome, annoying, intrusive, invasive and worse. >> i don't know the on to that question, senator. i think you'll need to ask the phone companies why they won't employ those call-blocking methodologies. i would point to the example of
what this congress did 40 years ago when it passed the consumer credit protects act putting the burden on banks for losses when there was credit card fraud, because the banks had that burden, the banks have been very vigorous in developing antifraud protections, so there's very little losses because of the losses that are then suffered by the banks. if the phone companies had the same losses that resulted from robo-calls especially overseas telemarketing spammers, they would be very quick to employ very vigorous anti-spoofing and rob ocall blocking technologies. >> thank you. my time has expired. i have many more questions and comments. i will put them in the record. i do believe that the present
penalties and the tcpa are inadequate for the bad actors and repeated violators, and i hope we can strengthen not weaken this important federal measure. thank you very much, mr. xharm. >> thank you, senator blumenthal. senator markie? >> thank, mr. chairman very much. i enjoy this conversation, because we're kind of in the wayback machine to a center machine, when senator daines holds up a cell phone from 1992, because when i authored this law in 1991 -- i am the author of it -- it was because there was an epidemic of calls that are going into people's homes. there were no laws. so people were almost afraid to look at their phone at night, because it would just start to ring at about 6:00, and it wouldn't stop until 9:30 or
10:00 at night so we had to put the law in the books. it's my law. and to senator daine's point, i also knew that we were putting in 200 megahertz of spectrum so that we could create the third, fourth, fifth and sixth cell phone license in america, we would go digital and everyone would have -- that's how i was bin in participatory consumer protections. when people hold this phone in their pocket and it starts to ring, people say, it's probably somebody i know, i think i'll take the call on my wireless device. i think i'll take it. why? because the protections in that law in 1991 are very high for wireless devices.
it's probably somebody you know. that's what you think, but when that phone is ringing at home at night, even today that land line phone, people look at it almost terrorized. it could be somebody i don't know. it could be somebody who's going to harass me. it could be somebody who's still calling me the same way they were in 1991 or 2001. that's the truth. should we change the laws to make it easier to call people on these wireless devices? i don't think so. it's person. it's on you. how much of an bruce would it be on people on senator mccaskill is on the point.
offshore, overseas, are harder to make, so if i can, ms. sawner, and perhaps i was when i was in law school, so maybe i was effected i was there the first year the consumer center was established working there can you talk -- can you talk about the -- and whether or not it might be possible to have the to be respond by e-mails, have the phone by ringing, are there ways of dealing with this issue that are much less intrusive on the consumer in our country? ms. saunterers?
there's not ha constitutional right to make robos calls, and businesses communicated quite well with their customers through man dial calls. i remember a person on the line saying there's suspicious activity. there's no role that that can't be yewed when the business is not sure about who actually has consented we're talks l.a. year
a relaxation of you las, call who have people who there's 40 mill joran, and now better ways for people to be communicated with who have debts in our country? attorney general zello. >> well, again i think at the beginning when people sign up for debt. to get their opt in as part of the transactions. again, i'll greet that we could make that defense so, you know, i'm not here to defend the plaintiff's bar, so tightening up a better line of defense, i would point out it's the christmass it was clear that we
had no exceptions, the political free speech, and we won based on the fact this was not limiting free speech. there's special of opportunity to spiel. and the courts won't allow that limitations. >> with your indulgence, could i ask ms. sawner to respond a little bit? >> is the idea that calling a consumer that owes a debt multiple times will assist then in paying back the debt is somewhat flawed. i think the record is full of examples of both consumers who owe the debt and consumers who don't being called numb are you times rob ocalled, which and
again it was a provision snuck into a must-pass piece of legislation that makes it much easier for debt collectors to call consumers students 40 million students who owed student loans, and maybe it easier for them to do that. i have introduced the hangup act that we just stopped at. it's absolutely irresponsible, and i ask unance muss to at two letters. led by attorney general zeller, who is testifying today and one from 16 consumers groups who have all wring in support of the hang z other regulatory bodies,
and i think you indicated that some don't have the same views of the fcc when it comes to have other regulators seen consumer benefits in communicating with consumers via mobile phone or message? >> yes, thank you for the question. the consumer financial protection board has an early intervention rule that encourages outbound communication. the home affordable modification program, the federal deposit insurance corporation, the federal trade commission, the consumer products saved commission, have all discussed the benefits of outbound
communications both by call and by text. there are also state laws that require outbound communication. nobody is appropriation that consumers shouldn't have the right -- even with the obama robo-call carveout that was mentioned a couple times today would allow consumers to demand to stop calling. i want to be very clear there are, i believe, strong bipardon san interest in the problem we have is the tcpa is no longer working as well as it should. as we've heard, all of user played by unwanted calls, even
on our cell phones at the same time you have gym companies facing. i think what this cries out for is a balanced solution. and getting a direction, phrasely for that matter, perhaps some common ground perhaps we'll be able to find a way to come up with some solutions that reflect that. i want to thank you all very much for being here -- >> mr. chairman, is it possibility i could ask one more question? that would be it. >> i kind of expected that would happen. senator markie, one more question. >> i appreciate that. i know it's an unwanted
intrusion. >> never unwanted. [ laughter ] >> but i thank you. the fast and a private debt collector to collect certainly unpaid taxes, attorney general. this in the xwugt deal will open the flood gates to private debt collectors. the nabbedment of the two provisions coincide with the rise of costing americans millions and millions of dollars. last year bogus topped the better business bureau list of top scams of 2015, with over 32%
of all scam reports about phony tax and debt collectors, so attorney general, will these two changes in the transportation laws on rob off-calls and revisions making it harder for consumers to probably themselves from fraudulent tax and debt collectors? >> well, there's no question of looking at those two coupled together, that there was this kind of interest, and again, like the chairman said, it was put into the must-pass budget, so i think this idea of making the carveout exception really puts consumers at risk, because we've told people, you know, the i.r.s. will not call you. don't worry if you do get the call, so this is not going to be a very effective tool to try to go after people, other than the harassment that, if that's supposed to get things done. i guess i would leave it that, again this carve out, with the exception is going to make the
constitutional question about whether the federal government has now made winners and losers in an area which is really covered with free speech. so you may have really killed the whole tcpa by that carve out. >> yes, so they have become electronic kind of -- as debt collectors, just bothering you all night long. ms. saunders, do you agree with the attorney general? >> yes, i do. >> thank you. i appreciate it, mr. mister chairman, very much. we do very much thank you for being here, taking the time and for responding to our questions. we will keep the hearing record open for two weeks during this time senators are asked to submit any questions for the record, and upon receipt we would ask all of you if you could submit your written answers to the committee as soon as possible. so thank you all for being here. this hearing is adjourned.
betting on donald trump winning. joining us on the phone is glenn thrush who conducted the interview. thank you for being with us. how the speaker -- well, it's pretty interesting, paul ryan a couple weeks ago told cnn he was adopting a wait-and-see attitude, wanted toss where he was on substantial policy. i've seen no shift on that even after the summit they had last week. it's funny, the word that ryan keeps using is party unity. i think the key i discovered in my discussion with the speaker, 45 minutes sit-down for the podcast was that his definite session of "unity" is different that trump's. trump's definition is to have ryan stand behind him and smile next to chris christie.
ryan's is much, much different. he wants trump to stop speaking as harshly about immigrants, and he also opposes some significant trump policies, most especially the temporary ban on muslims. >> how important is this for the trump organization? >> that's hard to say. he was considered to be the new standard bearer of the 2012 vice presidential nominee. he is the guy who is sort of drafted by his own people to take over for john boehner at kevin mccarthy's candidate fell apart. he is the ultimate young gun, but events have lapped him, passed him. there's a sense now that what ryan's role will be and very clearly articulated it to me is to be the keeper of the conservative it flame while this trump storm either blows over our changes into a full-blown -- >> where did the interview take
place? >> this is kind of funny, steve. it took place in the speaker's conference room, really at this highly polished oak table, this really grand room in the capitol. really what you would imagine the capitol looks like. as i was walking in, paul ryan says, see this carpet? it's brand-new, the drapes are brand new, we had to rip everything out after john boehner left to get the smell of the cigarette smoke out of it. then i noticed that a one wall there were no oil paintings, just sort of these cardboard pictures of president. i want to ryan, why are those there? he said the librarian of congress rye fused to allow boehner to hold oil paintings, because the nicotine smoke would dim them. >> with that here is a portion of the interview, which is available online at politico.com. >> do you think you can really win? >> yeah, sure, of course i do. >> would you say, if you were a
betting man, would you say he's going to win? >> i'm not a betting man, so, you know, i think if we get our party unified and do the work we need to do to get ourselves at full strength and offer the country a clear and compelling agenda that is inspiring, that is inclusive, that fixes problems, that is solution-based, and based on good principles, then yes, i think we can win, but i think this is a we, not just one person, this is a "we" effort. i'm a jack kemp guy. i very much believe in a type and style of politics that may not be in vogue today, but i still think nevertheless is the right kind of politics. >> tell me what you mean by jack kemp guy, by optimistic, inclusive, be principled, evangelize your ideas everywhere, but especially the people who aren't familiar with them. that to me is have i important. that's why i think we need to spend or time on talking to people who nay not have effort
wanted to listen to us in the past, to compete for their votes and compete for their hearts and minds. >> i knowant dow don't want -- and that is, by the way, i think an admichelle approach, but we have seen a campaign where that has not happened. in fact it's been the opposite. >> but i don't know if that's this campaign, i think the whole primary process -- and the democrats are doing the same thing. bernie sanders and hillary clinton are at each other's throats right now competing over democrat primary voters. republicans do the same thing over republican primary voters. the question going forward is, can we now move an appeal across the scale, across broad spectrums of voters, and do so in a way that is inviting, that is interesting, that actually principled and has real good solutions. i believe we have an opportunity, because seven out of ten americans do not like the path we are on. they think we're going in the
wrong direction. therefore, the other party, the one that's not in the white house has an obligation and an opportunity to offer a better way. >> a portion of what is a 45-minute podcast interview conducted by glenn thrush of politico, and the conversation with house speaker paul ryan. yet you also said he took 2012 too serious, that was one of his mistakes four years ago. can you elaborate? >> yeah, that was interesting. obviously joe biden has been in the news, and by the way he thought joe bide been would have been a more difficult challenger for republicans than hillary clinton, but they had that energetic debate in kentucky, in which biden really came out of the box almost shouting at ryan, and i really, really thought ryan's answer to that question was probably the most interesting moment in our conversation. he said, and i'm going to paraphrase him. he said, i won that debate, because i did what i needed to do, and that is i kept my cool when i was being attacked.
he said it's one thing to have an intemperate 68-year-old, referring to biden's annilat the time, it's another thing to have an intemperate untested 43-year-old, speaking of himself. that's an incredibly emblematic statement. this puts hi stylistically and spiritually in opposition to the approach of donald trump, a guy who believes in discipline and self-containment. >> what do you think house speaker paul ryan wants from donald trump and wants from republicans in the house and senate, including his friend reince priebus, the chair of the gop? >> well, lit me take priebus off this. priebus is really innate. if ryan is in a touchy situation, priebus is in the touchiest situation, but i think paul ryan wants from donald trump the same thing he
wants from his own freedom or tea party caucus folks, and that is to shut up. [ laughter ] he wants everybody to tone it down. he wants them to agree on sort of a consensus set of policies and to present the rep party as a substantive alternative to the obama era and to what hillary clinton is presenting. i think that that is pie in the sky. i think the likelihood of that occurring at this point in time is pretty low. i think it raises the question as to whether or not ryan will ever, ever meet the threshold of unity set for donald trump, or will he just, as so many other republicans have done, cave to the inevitable and endorse him by fault? >> do you think the house speaker will serve as the convention chair in cleveland this july? >> he has offered to withdraw if trump suggests that he does the i think it will be an interesting dynamic and real test of trump's capacity to deal with any kind of dissent or
anible who disagrees with him. if trump wants to, you know, if ryan does not enter the convention, having already endorsed trump, it would be a pretty difficult situation optically for the republicans, that the guy with the gavel doesn't support the guy with the megaphone. this is the headlines, speaker ryan saying he could win -- the reporting and the podcast by glenn thrush, thank you for being with us. >> thank you. madam secretary, we proudly give 72 of our delegate votes to the next president of the united states. ♪
♪ well, back in april, sonia sotomayor spoke about her life as a justice and explained how much harder it is to be on the supreme court and why the high court needs questionity. the president of rutgers announced justice sotomayor to about 3,000 in attendance. >> that's a long way in from that far side. i again in this arena you should by running in, but i do want to welcome you all here. i must say the line coming noire remarkable, orderly, smiling, longer than anything i have seen
at rutgers that did not involve free food. so i'm glad you are here. i've never seen the seats in the back filled either. yeah, good. as they say, good on you guys, just don't fall. i could see the tumble effect could be brutal. i do want to welcome you. this is rutgers 250th anniversary, and we're delighted to celebrate that. but it is also the 60th anniversary of the eagle ton institute of politics policy. nice to have them on the same year. this is a discussion on civic engagement as part of a series done in honor of lieu gamichini.
is he here? no, he wasn't able to make it today. he was commissioner of transportation under brendan byrne and responsible for setting up the new jersey transit system. so he sets an example for this, and what we are doing today is to try to continue that tradition of civic engagement. i think debra poratz is here, and a number of senators and assembly person, so i hope that you have a good time with us. but my job today really is to introduce our guest. it's an honor for me to do this, to welcome our guest to rut
engineers. she's supreme court justice sonia sotomayor. it took a venue like the rack to hold the crowd. we had this event scheduled for another space that only head 750 people, so i'm a little embarrassed that we don't have the columns and the white marble here, but considering the number of people who have an opportunity to see and hear what she has to say, i think we couldn't bet in a better place than the rack. she's the ideal special, because that's what she's done the entire life. also a perfect federal to our students here, and i'll take a moment, she was born in the bronx from parent who came from puerto rico. she lost her discard as a grammar school student, but her
mom worked six days a week to provide -- and she was the first in her family to attend college. i have to point out of the 8,000 new students who joined rutgers last year, a full quarter of them, 2500 were the first in their family to attend college, so this ko september -- [ applause ] as near as i can tell, that was perhaps the only questionable decision if her otherwise stellar career. he does make the choice to go south for her college experience to princeton, but we won't hold that against her. she geruted summa cum laude, and then went to law school at yale, where she was the editor of the law journal at yale and shy
litigated international matters. her judicial experience began with her nomination by president george h.w. bush to the u.s. district court southern division in new york in 1992. in 1998 she was promoted to the -- and when barack obama was ecelebritied, around sworn into office, his first nomination to the supreme court was our speaker today, she took her office in may of 2009 president obama said this -- her career has given her not only a sweechg overview of the america judicial system, but a practical understanding of how the law works in the everyday lives of
the american people. i think that really says it all. his took her seat as associate justice in august of 2009, the first hispanic and third woman on the supreme court. now, that -- [ applause ] that doesn't do justice to her bio, but she has a book called "my beloved world" i'm going to put on the mandatory reading list. i think it was reading that book that motivated ruth mandel of bringing her here to share her story with us. i think for ruth and some of her students, this is a dream coming to to have this intimate conversation with this intimate small crowd, but i would like you to join me now in welcoming professor ruth mandel and her honored guest, supreme court justice sonia sotomayor.
>> i don't think i have to do this introduction. a very, very warm welcome. >> thank you. >> you're already getting a sense of how much we appreciate you coming here. it is such an honor, such a joy to welcome you -- is this not on? >> they told me it would be on -- hello? [ applause ] experience makes perfect. >> this is power. can you hear me now? >> oh. >> let's switch that out.
how about this? >> better. >> thank you. >> thank you. i was saying, a warm welcome we are full of join and precious that you have said yes to come to rutgers to help us celebration some important anniversaries, 250th of the university and the 60th of the eag eagleton institute of politics. what a pleasure. the president has mentioned the background of today's events. speaking personally, i will underscore that this is what you dream about when you write a fan letter. that -- or more than you dream about. that fan letter from me was on behalf of the remarkable student body we are privileged to teach
at rutgers, educating students about civil engagement, about taking responsibility for our representative democrat sick is at the hard of the eagleton institute of politics mission, and at the core of today's special event. the response to this event has been tremendous, to say the least, and therefore our move to this rather large venue, somewhat larger than eagleton normally invites guests to visit with us, that has male a casual question and answer session impossible. instead, students from the three rutgers campuses in new brung wick, camden and newark have submitted questions in advance, and some of them have been invited to join us on the court. but before we hear from the students, i have the privilege of asking several questions, and
i'm going to begin with the fan letter that was written about the book that i read a couple years ago, which would such an impact on me, so inspiring. i would like you to talk a little bit about the title for that book. it is called "my beloved world." would you tell us how you came to that title and what it means. >> as those of you who have read my book know, it comes from a poem by a puerto rican author, one who had been displaced from puerto rico for a period of time, and he was talking about the memories that he had of his puerto rico. my editor called me up, because we had been going back and forth on potential titles for about three years, the process of writing my book.
he sell sonia, have youer jose benitez. i said in college, he said, did you read this poem? >> i said, sure. >> he said, go back to it. >> it's a much longer poem than the excerpt in the book. i finished the poem, and he said the title is "my beloved world." and he said, that's what i thought, too. when i thought about it, i said some people who didn't want a title, they wanted something like mommy dearest, the life and struggles you have, and i realized that when i wrote the book, i had in me the objectivity and impartiality that is a part of my profession. it's a craft in my profession. you are taught to look at things as objectively as you humanly
can. and so as i wrote about my book, i hope you're all aware, that i was painfully objective in terms of talking about both the challenges of my life and the good times of my life. for many of those, don't those go hand in hand? they're really the flip of the same coin. what i wanted to do is let people understand that i knew that both the positive and negative experiences of my life had crafted me. they made me, and my mother would say all of the bad, too, but who i am is an amalgam of those experiences. for me each one was any to
creating who i am. so when i finished the book, realized that i loved my life. first of all, how many people get to the supreme court, okay? even though i wouldn't necessarily want to change that, there are parts of it that i wish i could have done without, but i really do appreciate that with it, it made me a better person. and so hence the title "my beloved world." i've been risen, as everyone knows who has read the book and followed your career, from very humble begins, one of the nation's most prestigious and
visibility positions. what have you held on to from your earliest days? >> my gosh, read my book. everything. just about everything. you know, i tell people that i'm the proudest american you can imagine. when i'm asked who i am, i tell them oop an american from new york city, but i also tell them elf a puerto rican heart, because my culture is deeply ingrained in me. who i am is all of the experiences i have had, but also the values that i was taught i think every culture inconstitutions values. all of us have love of family, love of community, love of country, but there's something
in the music i heard, in the poetry i read, in the food i ate, in the dances that my family had that stays in the very core of you. that core is so vibrant and so important to me. that it -- i don't think it wills extinguish the day i do, how's that? and i bring it with me to just about everything i do. by the way, i don't think you know -- i'll tell a story. i think it might interest the audience. the day the president called me to tell me that he had selected me to be his nominee to the court, he asked me to make two promises, and one of the two was to stay tied to my community. my response to me was, mr.
president, i don't know how to do anything else but. i think that response was not only genuine, it was who i am, and i don't know that he understood, however, that my community was just not my family or even my puerto rican culture. it is much wider than that. it's a world that i care very deeply about. it's a country that i'm very devoted to. it's issues that are critically important to me, education being at the foremost. so -- [ applause ] -- all of that is my sense of community. >> going back a bit to the family, how the relationship has evolved, from the book it's apparent and from what you're saying, of course, that family is such a key theme and priority in your life.
being a supreme court justice is so high profile and being in the presence of a justice can be intimidating, although you make it easy, i must say. >> thank you. >> has being on the court affected how people close to you treat you? does the fame especially in such a politically charged climate as we're all living in, does that affect your family and your relationships with your family? >> well, the day i got a call from my brother telling me he was in a gym in california and guess what? the president walked in and he went up to a secret service agent and said, you know, i'm justice sotomayor's brother, and he got through secret service to shake the president's hand? he called me and said, okay, this is worth something, okay? [ laughter ] you know, you have good and bad
things. like the person who bears my last name whose wallet was stolen and told the police she was my cousin. i have no idea who this person was. and there are moments it affects family and very dear friends. i earlier told stories of moments with friends where we've really had to talk through the relationship and the situation, more the situation. people torture my family and friends to get to me, so i'll say yes to doing something, and at the beginning it was very hard to many of my friends, because they felt some loyalty to whoever was asking them to do the thing, and at the same time they understood that my life had gotten very complicated. but i found, just as i describe in the book, that really talking it out makes a huge, huge difference. and each of us has -- and then
have found a protocol for dealing with it that takes the pressure away from them and from me, and so yes, that does affect you. i earlier told the students who were at lunch that the first christmas that i went to our family christmas party -- we do it around new year's, because everybody has nuclear families elsewhere. my own is with my brother in syracuse, so i come back down to the city for new year's, and we have an outs at my cousin miriam's home. you'll know who miriam is. she mimi in the book. i walked in and sat down at the couch, and there was silence. deafening silence. in a puerto rican party? nobody shuts up. and all you hear is people
talking above each other and screams from the other room and laughter, lots of it. and i looked around and i said, what's wrong with you guys? i'm still sonia, and the room burst out in laughter, everybody started talking over each other, asking me questions and catching up, but sure it changes the relationships. it's -- it has to, but there are events i miss, because i can't leave the court, events my family knees i would have been including nigh aunt's birthday. they decided to have it on a day that i was away. my point is that sure, it changes it, but we work hard at keeping it the same as much as we can. but it's a work in progress. none of this happens on its own,
and it's them working with me, and so if the event is really critical to them, they've learned to call early so we can get it on my schedule, and they've even accommodated funerals so i can one in from washington, and put it off a day so i could travel. so it's a sort of give-and-take that we're doing to maintain the relationship as close to the same as possible. >> as close as possible. >> as close as possible. >> in the memoir you touch on the role of politics in the judicial appointment process, and the need to make yourself and your skills, one's self and one's skills known to those in power in order to be considered for a judgeship. what was the experience of making your skills known, blowing your own horn like for you, and particularly for some of our students here?
what advice would you give to young people about how and when to be your own cheerleader? >> i really believe in letting your actions speak for you. the one thing i know i did was to ensure at every stage of my career that i was doing the very best job i humanly could. so i studied and studied and studied, both in high school and at princeton and at yale. i never, never cut corners with my education. my book talks to all of you about how i real-learned how to write in college, because i thought that my writing was inadequate. so i went -- hello? >> sound, please. >> hello?
so i went back and re-read grammar books, found a professor who helped me with every paper to reteach myself and relearn english grammar and how to apply it to actual writing, but i've done that in my professional pursuits. my first useful at everyup. i have really not been sdrabt distracted by anything else. i put my head down and studied as hard as i could. once i felt i was in control of the process i was in, then i would go out and do other things and try to become a leader in those things that interested me. one of the hardest things to do today, i look at the resume of students, and you're often involved in so many different things, i who irthat you're missing the point.
you should get involved in a couple things that are really important to you, and then excel at them, become a leader, do something noteworthy, something that people will talk about in their letters of recommendations about you. it could just be, you know, she's a member of x, y, z and a, b, c and d, or she does this and that. it's important for a her to talk about what your passions are, and to show how good you have been. that's how i dealt with my professional career. it was putting my head down, being the best i could, the best lawyer i could be in the d.a.'s office, getting a reputation for being tough but fair. that was important to me, but most important to me was beings passionate about the work i did. don't do any work that you're
not passionate about. first of all, you won't be good at it. if the work doesn't interest you, if it doesn't satisfy something in you, then you're not going to be the best at it. but if you go into any work situation, recognizing that you can learn things from any situation that you're in and work to milk that learning experience to its utmost, then you'll grow passionate about your work. because except for illegal activity, all other work has value. you know, i tell law students, especially those who are so passionate about public interest, it's not a sin to make money. all right? it's not. and commensurate with that, it's not a sin to work for a corporation, or to work for a big law firm, or to make money.
it is a sin if you do those things without giving back to your community, if you do those things without volunteering -- [ applause ] -- without using some of those resources, both the company you work for and your own, in helping public interest activities. then there's something wrong. but all work has some inherent value. all work can be intellectually stimulating. in all work you do, you can help people. you know, on april 15th, all of you are very happy with your tax accountants, okay? and you think, as i do sometimes to myself, don't they get bored with those numbers? they don't, because this is
fascinating to them. for the really good accountants working closely with you and really trying to help you, not just save money, but to be honest and upstanding in how you reportincome, you know that you value them. so you can value the taxicab driver who takes you to where you need to go. you can value the bus driver who takes you to work everyday. you can value the person who cleans your room in a hotel, just as you can value anybody that provides a service for you. and so don't be afraid of thinking of public interest more broadly. think of it as an opportunity to figure out what job satisfying your intellectual interests, makes use of your natural talents and where you can use those things to benefit.
sometimes yourself, but to benefit others. and i think if you do that, you end up with a passionate life. and that is actually the most important thing that i think you should be thinking about as you study law. don't eliminate choices simply because others think oh, my god, the you're going to be one of those horrible corporate lawyers. there's nothing horrible about it. anything you do with honor can be put to good use, okay? [ applause ] all right we're having a problem with this. this is a problem. >> hello? i got it now. [ laughter ] i'll give it back. now that you're on the supreme
court do you view your role as a judge differently from when you served on the lower courts and in what ways? how does that vary? >> i don't know how we're going to do this but they'll figure it out. all right, you see a lot of dressed up people around the room, men and women in suits. they've got these little things in their ear. most of them are u.s. marshals and campus police and some of the local police and their job is to protect me. not you, but from me, okay? [ laughter ] i like doing something that they don't like a whole lot because they think it puts me in danger. i don't, so i do it. but i do it because you're going to make me a promise. which is you won't get up when i walk around among you, okay? i don't like sitting still. [ applause ] if you'll read my book you'll
know i was called a hot pepper by my mother when i was a child because i never sat still, i was always up and down and i haven't stopped that way since. i also think if i move closer to you that you'll feel like we're having a real conversation. so just don't get up because if you do they jump into action. [ laughter ] and it gets a little messy, so i'm going to try to make it somewhat up there [ cheers and applause ] but i'm not that young anymore so we'll try, okay? all right is there a difference? it's harder. much, much harder to be a supreme court justice. when i was on the lower courts, the district and the trial courts, i always thought to myself when i got to the supreme
court "how much different can it be?" a lot. and it starts with that i had not realized or appreciated when i was on the district and circuit courts how much comfort i took in making decisions from the fact that there was a court above me that could fix my worst mistakes. that really gives you an out, okay? you struggle with a question, you do the best job you can, it's much easier to let go when you know you're not the final wo word. well now i'm part of the final word. and although congress can fix some of the things that the supreme court does wrong it can't fix others. on constitutional questions, we're the last word. on statutory questions, it's not
easy for congress to act and change laws or change things that many of them -- many congress people may think it's wrong and so making a decision is much, much harder. and in many ways i feel it more a burden because i remember one thing in every single case that comes before the court. we're announcing a winner. we're telling one side they were right. i'm getting past the nuances. sometimes we say they're right on one thing and wrong on another but generally one side is going to come away feeling vindicated by our decision. and the flip of that is someone lost.
and someone feels like something important has been taken away from them. either that a right they thought they had or a recognition of a loss that was deeply felt by them. and that makes this job that much harder. and so that part of the judging is very different. the critical difference, however, is, so the layperson can understand it, we're the court of last resort and when do we take cases? we take cases when the lower courts have disagreed about the answer to a legal question. it's what we typically call a circuit split. there are 13 circuits in the united states that cover the 50
states plus territories. the circuits are not of equal size. some of them are bigger in number of states, some are smaller in number of states but bigger in terms of the number of people. but if you start from the proposition that we have to have either a circuit split or a split among the circuits at a state court, the highest state court, or a split among courts generally before we take a case, what does that tell you? we take only the hard cases. and we take the cases where reasonable people have disagreed. because you have to start from the assumption that if courts below that are always made up of judges who are trying their best and they can't find the answer, then the answer for us is not
easy. you know, there's a lot of complaint at times i hear because we don't agree more. and i look at people and say why do you expect a unanimity of opinion when the reason the case came to us is because other people couldn't agree? and so that is a fundamental difference from the other courts. in the other courts you get a certain number of cases that are right out on that margin but the number is much smaller than the everyday work. as one of my colleagues once said about a case, the minute comes to the supreme court it's a supreme court case. as soon as we say yes we're going to hear a case, everybody
revs up to tell us every side of the case. and so it's harder because every case is on the margin. ruth? >> ah! hi. is this working? great. i'm going to ask one last question and then we'll turn to some of the students. new jersey is a very -- do not let her go too high up. [ laughter ] >> why? >> not to nose bleed territory. new jersey is a very racially -- >> oh, no, telling me no is the worst thing in the world. [ laughter ] [ applause ] go ahead. go ahead. start again, ruth. [ laughter ] hello. >> as i was saying, new jersey is a very racially and ethnically diverse state. one of the stop three most diverse states in the united states with respect to racial, ethnic, and immigrant
populations. we know that makes a difference here in new jersey. it certainly defines and shapes the culture in so many ways. does diversity on the court make a difference? how and why? this is my last question. >> that's your last question. okay. then i get to students. we represent the country. we make decisions that affect every single person in the country. and sometimes in some of our decisions the world. we also supervise, generally, the practice of law in the country. and we're influencing the work of lawyers in every single profession there is in the country. and so to be able tore