April 6, 2012
Kelley Drye recently obtained a successful resolution for pro bono client, the Kristin Brooks Hope Center, in a longstanding dispute over assignment of toll-free suicide prevention hotlines founded by the Center. In 1998, the Hope Center, a non-profit organization devoted to suicide prevention, awareness and education, created a national suicide prevention network organized under the easy-to-remember telephone number 1-800-SUICIDE. Before the Hope Center created this hotline, there was no single way nationwide for individuals in crisis to reach a trained crisis center capable of providing counseling and support for those in need. The Hope Center was the subscriber to 1-800-SUICIDE and worked with a network of 300 providers to route calls to the appropriate center based on the caller's location.
The Hope Center came to Kelley Drye in 2006 for representation when a government agency, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reassign 800-SUICIDE and two similar numbers to the government over theHopeCenter's objection. During the course of a six year proceeding, Kelley Drye disputed the legal and factual basis for the government agency's request to reassign the numbers from the Hope Center. In 2009, the FCC ordered the permanent assignment of the numbers to SAMHSA in an order which the Hope Center challenged before the US Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals reversed and vacated the FCC order, agreeing with Kelley Drye's contention that the FCC had unfairly favored the government agency in its analysis. The Court concluded that the FCC had failed to provide a reasoned explanation of its decision, cautioning that "fear may have supplanted reason" in the analysis.
After lengthy proceedings on remand, the Hope Center and SAMHSA jointly resolved their differences in the proceeding. The Hope Center consented to the permanent assignment of the numbers to SAMHSA, which pledged to continue to operate the numbers as suicide prevention hotlines and made available to the public as part of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline supported by SAMHSA. The agreement allows the Hope Center to move forward with its suicide prevention mission, including its next generation IMAl ive Online Crisis Center, the first live online crisis network with 100% of its staff and volunteers trained and certified in crisis intervention. The FCC approved the settlement agreement onMarch 28, 2012.
Kelley Drye's team was led by partner Steve Augustino, who argued the successful D.C. Circuit challenge in the case.