Justia Communications Law Opinion Summaries

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The Second Circuit denied a petition for review challenging an FCC order removing the Solicited Fax Rule from the Code of Federal Regulations. The order was issued in response to the D.C. Circuit's decision holding that the Solicited Fax Rule was unlawful, and vacating a 2014 order of the FCC that affirmed the validity of the Rule. The court concluded that it is bound by the D.C. Circuit's decision and that the agency did not err by repealing the Rule following the D.C. Circuit's ruling. Pursuant to the Hobbs Act's channeling mechanism, the court explained that the D.C. Circuit became the sole forum for addressing the validity of the Rule. Therefore, once the D.C. Circuit invalidated the 2014 Order and the Rule, that holding became binding in effect on every circuit in which the regulation's validity is challenged. Accordingly, the FCC was bound to comply with the D.C. Circuit's mandate and could not pursue a policy of nonacquiescence. View "Gorss Motels, Inc. v. Federal Communications Commission" on Justia Law

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BuzzFeed, a media outlet, sued the Department of Justice (DOJ) under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552, seeking disclosure of an unredacted version of the report prepared by Special Counsel Robert Mueller on his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The district court permitted most of DOJ’s redactions. BuzzFeed challenged the decision only with respect to information redacted pursuant to FOIA Exemption 7(C), and relating to individuals investigated but not charged. Exemption 7(C) permits the withholding of law enforcement records which, if disclosed, “could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”The D.C. Circuit affirmed with respect to redacted passages containing personally-identifying facts about individuals that are not disclosed elsewhere in the Report and would be highly stigmatizing to the individuals’ reputations. The court reversed with respect to redacted passages that primarily show how Special Counsel interpreted relevant law and applied it to already public facts available elsewhere in the Report in reaching individual declination decisions. After in camera review of the Report, the court concluded that those passages show only how the government reached its declination decisions and do not contain new facts or stigmatizing material. Matters of substantive law enforcement policy are properly the subject of public concern” and are “a sufficient reason for disclosure independent of any impropriety.” View "Electronic Privacy Information Center v. United States Department of Justice" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the West Virginia Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Act (West Virginia Act), W. Va. Code 62-1D-1 through 16, runs afoul of the First Amendment to the federal Constitution and W. Va. Const. art. III, 7 and is unconstitutional as appleid to the extent that it allows a civil action to be maintained against an innocent third party who publishes information of public concern that was obtained by the unlawful interception of wire, oral, or electronic communication in violation of the statute but who did not participate in the unlawful interception of the communication.Petitioners, public school employees, alleged that the mother of A.P., a special education student in their classroom, violated both the West Virginia Act and its federal construct by placing a secret audio recording device in A.P.'s hair, purporting to show Petitioners physically and verbally abusing students. After Petitioners resigned, they brought this complaint alleging that Respondents, various media groups or outlets, violated the West Virginia Act by using and disclosing Petitioners' intercepted communications. The circuit court granted Respondents' motions to dismiss. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in dismissing the case. View "Yurish v. Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc." on Justia Law

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The United States and four states sued DISH Network, LLC (“DISH”) for violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”). DISH submitted a claim for defense and indemnity to its insurer, National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (“National Union”). National Union denied the claim and filed suit in Colorado federal court seeking a declaration that it had no duty to defend or indemnify DISH in the underlying TCPA lawsuit. The district court granted summary judgment to National Union, relying on the Tenth Circuit's decision in ACE American Insurance Co. v. DISH Network, LLC, 883 F.3d 881 (10th Cir. 2018). Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment. Further, the Court affirmed the district court’s denial of DISH’s request for further discovery under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(d). And we deny DISH’s motion to certify a question of state law to the Colorado Supreme Court. View "National Union Fire Insurance v. Dish Network" on Justia Law

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New “Voice over Internet Protocol,” (VoIP) systems resulted in the 2008 New and Emerging Technologies 911 Improvement Act, 47 U.S.C. 222, 615a, 615a-1, 615b and 942.2 The “911 Fee Parity Provision” allows non-federal government entities to charge a fee to commercial phone services for the support of 911 services but specifies that, “[f]or each class of subscribers to IP-enabled voice services, the fee or charge may not exceed the amount of any such fee or charge applicable to the same class of subscribers to telecommunications services.”Alabama 911 Districts contended that the Provision authorized them to charge non-VoIP service providers per access line and VoIP service providers per 10-digit telephone number even if the total charges for a given class of VoIP subscribers exceed the total charges for the same class of non-VoIP subscribers for the same amount of burden each group imposes on the 911 system.The district court referred the matter to the FCC, which concluded that the Provision prohibits state and local governments from charging 911 fees to VoIP providers that are greater than those charged to non-VoIP providers for the same amount of burden imposed on the 911 system. The order precludes the 911 Districts from charging VoIP providers and non-VoIP providers the same base fee based on different units if the total fee charged for comparable 911 access is higher for VoIP service providers. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, finding Congress’s intent unambiguous. View "Autauga County Emergency Management Communication District v. Federal Communications Commission" on Justia Law

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White, a white supremacist, is now in federal prison. His Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. 552, requests concern a conspiracy theory: that the racist movement he joined is really an elaborate government sting operation. Dissatisfied with the pace at which the FBI and Marshals Service released responsive records and their alleged failure to reveal other records, White filed suit.The court granted the agencies summary judgment and denied White’s subsequent motion seeking costs because the Marshals Service alone was delinquent in responding; the 1,500 pages held by that agency were an insubstantial piece of the litigation compared to 100,000 pages of FBI documents. The court stated that “the transparent purpose of White’s FOIA requests and lawsuit was to harass the government, not to obtain information useful to the public.” White then filed an unsuccessful motion to reconsider, arguing that the court should not render a final decision until the FBI had redacted, copied, and sent all the responsive records, which will take more than a decade. White next moved to hold the Marshals Service in contempt for telling the court in 2018 that it would soon start sending him records; by 2020 White had received nothing. The court admonished the agency but determined that no judicial order had been violated. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The district judge “carefully parsed White’s numerous and wide-ranging arguments and explained the result." View "White v. United States Department of Justice" on Justia Law

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In 1981, a Georgia federal district court concluded that Atlanta’s zoning regulations for adult businesses were constitutionally overbroad in their entirety and permanently enjoined their enforcement. Atlanta did not appeal. Cheshire operates an Atlanta adult novelty and video store, Tokyo Valentino, and sued, asserting that the definitions of “adult bookstore,” “adult motion picture theater,” “adult mini motion picture theater,” “adult cabaret,” and “adult entertainment establishment” in the current Atlanta City Code are facially overbroad in violation of the First Amendment.On remand, the district court granted Atlanta summary judgment. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The district court did not err in providing a narrowing construction of certain terms (the term “patron” in the definitions of “adult motion picture theater” and “adult mini-motion picture theater”) in the challenged provisions. The phrase “intended, designed, or arranged” suggests that the challenged provisions do not apply to isolated or intermittent uses of the property. Cheshire failed to show that any overbreadth in the provisions is “substantial” as required by Supreme Court precedent. The challenged provisions do not purport to ban the activities or conduct they define or describe but are part of a zoning scheme regulating where covered establishments can locate or operate. View "Cheshire Bridge Holdings, LLC, v. City of Atlanta," on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied Relator's request seeking a writ of mandamus ordering the public-records officer for the Ohio Adult Parole Authority (APA) to produce records that Relator claimed to have requested under Ohio's Public Records Act, Ohio Rev. Code 149.43, holding that Relator was not entitled to the writ.In his mandamus action, Relator alleged that he sent a public-records request to the APA's public-records officer seeking public records from the personnel files of six Ohio Parole Board members who were members of the panel for Relator's parole hearing and that the officer had not responded to his request. The Supreme Court denied mandamus relief, holding that because Relator failed to provide evidence to demonstrate that he delivered the alleged public-records request to the APA at all, Relator was not entitled to relief in mandamus. View "State ex rel. Griffin v. Doe" on Justia Law

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The Court of Chancery adopted Verizon Communications Inc.'s proposal for the amount of security required for its indemnification claim relating to national consumer-oriented class actions, holding that Altaba, Inc. (the Company) shall reserve $400 million as security earmarked for that claim, inclusive of the $58.75 million that the Company had paid to fund its share of the settlement.The Company, formerly known as Yahoo! Inc., publicly disclosed massive data breaches only after selling its operating business to Verizon Communications Inc. The Company's customers filed a series of national customer class actions. The parties to the class actions subsequently reached a global settlement, which the federal district court approved. The Company then dissolved. Verizon possessed a contingent contractual claim to indemnification from the Company for fifty percent of the liabilities associated with the class actions, and the Company proposed an amount of security that Verizon rejected. This proceeding followed, with the Company claiming that no security was required for Verizon's indemnification claim. The Court of Chancery held that the Company failed to carry its burden of proving that its proposed amount and form of security would be sufficient to satisfy Verizon's claim for indemnification if it matured and adopted Verizon's proposal for an amount. View "In re Altaba, Inc." on Justia Law

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A member of Sons of Confederate Veterans applied to participate in the Old Soldiers Day Parade, a pro-American veterans parade funded and organized by the Alpharetta, Georgia, and was informed that the organization could participate if it agreed not to fly the Confederate battle flag.In a suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the City violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments, the district court held that the Parade constituted government speech and entered summary judgment against the Sons. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. Governments “are not obliged under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to permit the presence of a rebellious army’s battle flag in the pro-veterans parades that they fund and organize.” In 2015, in Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, the Supreme Court clarified that, “[w]hen [the] government speaks, it is not barred by the Free Speech Clause from determining the content of what it says.” View "Leake v. Drinkard" on Justia Law