'Do-Not-Call' Judge's Phones Swamped With Angry Calls

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U.S. District Judge Lee R. West's telephone has not stopped ringing since he sided with telemarketers seeking to block a popular national do-not-call list.

Egged on by talk show hosts and angry Web sites, people have flooded West's office and home with calls and faxes, apparently trying to show him why they wanted to ban unsolicited sales calls.

"They are just calling to tie up our lines," said Rick Wade, operations manager at the district clerk's office. "They just keep calling to harass us, like the telemarketers harass them, I guess."

The phones at the federal courthouse were jammed Thursday morning and voicemail boxes were stuffed with messages blasting West's ruling that the Federal Trade Commission (search) lacked authority to create and operate the registry.

West's home and office telephone numbers were posted on the Internet, and consumers angry with the ruling were encouraged to call. Calls by The Associated Press to West's home seeking comment were blocked by busy signals.

The ruling even made late-night television talk show host Jay Leno's monologue Wednesday night.

"The judge says the telemarketers can call you whenever they want," Leno said. "You know what we should do? Let's all call this judge tonight at home during dinner."

West did please some businesses with his ruling Tuesday. Telemarketers say the list would devastate their industry and lead to the loss of thousands of jobs.

Rick Ratliff, president of U.S. Security, Inc., one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging the list, said his company laid off half of its 600 employees because of restrictions on telemarketing.

"U.S. Security does not sell anything over the phone," he said. "We simply ask for the opportunity to tell someone about the lifesaving benefits of our security and fire systems in a face-to-face meeting."

The do-not-call registry appears that it will go forward after all. The House approved legislation Thursday intended to ensure the list goes into effect next week. After less than an hour of debate, which included potshots at West from both parties, House members voted 412-8 to approve the bill.