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In regulating the practice of engineering, Mississippi restricts the use of the term “engineer.” Express operates automotive service centers in Mississippi and other states under the Tire Engineers mark. The Mississippi Board of Licensure for Professional Engineers & Surveyors informed Express that the name Tire Engineers violated Miss. Code 73-13-39 and requested that it change its company advertisement name. Express sought a declaratory judgment, citing Express’s “rights of commercial free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment”; and “rights under preemptive federal trademark law” under 15 U.S.C. 1051–1127. The district court granted the Board summary judgment. The Fifth Circuit reversed. The Board’s decision violates the First Amendment’s commercial speech protections. Because its essential character is not deceptive, Tire Engineers is not inherently misleading. The name, trademarked since 1948, apparently refers to the work of mechanics using their skills “not usu[ally] considered to fall within the scope of engineering” to solve “technical problems” related to selecting, rotating, balancing, and aligning tires. Nor is the name actually misleading. Because the name is potentially misleading, the Board’s asserted interests are substantial but the record does not support the need for a total ban on the name. Other states with similar statutes have not challenged the use of the trademark and the Board did not address why less-restrictive means, such as a disclaimer, would not accomplish its goal. View "Express Oil Change, L.L.C. v. Mississippi Board of Licensure for Professional Engineers & Surveyors" on Justia Law

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Cobb and Gwinnett Counties, Georgia, sued telephone companies for their failure to collect and remit to the Counties a charge imposed on subscribers to offset the cost of 911 services. The telephone companies raised various defenses to the Counties’ suits, including that the 911 charge was a tax that the Counties were not allowed to collect by a lawsuit like this one. The trial court rejected that argument and allowed the cases to proceed, but the Court of Appeals vacated that aspect of the trial court’s ruling and remanded because further development of the record was needed to determine whether the charge was a tax. The Georgia Supreme Court concluded the charge was indeed a tax regardless of more factual development, and the Counties lacked legal authority to collect that tax in this lawsuit. View "BellSouth Telecommunications, LLC v. Cobb County et al." on Justia Law

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Scabby the Rat is a giant, inflatable balloon that is associated with labor disputes. After the Union learned that a masonry company working at Kolosso Toyota in Grand Chute, was not paying area standard wages, it engaged in informational picketing and to set up a 12-foot Scabby in the median across from the dealer, along the frontage road for a major local thoroughfare. The Code Enforcement Officer required that the Union remove Scabby as violating the Sign Ordinance. The Union filed suit, arguing that the ordinance distinguished among signs based on content. The district court rejected the suit on summary judgment. The Town amended its Code. On remand, the district court held that the case was not moot because the Union was seeking damages for having to use greater resources to maintain the protest. The court noted that the likelihood of recurrence theory was not available because of the Code amendment and rejected the claims on the merits. The Seventh Circuit agreed that claims based on the former ordinance were not moot, despite the fact that construction was complete and that ordinance did not discriminate on the basis of content. It was narrowly tailored to meet its stated purpose—banning anything on the public right-of-way that might obstruct vision or distract passing drivers. Whatever dispute may exist over the new law is not ripe. View "Construction and General Laborers' Union Number 330 v. Town of Grand Chute" on Justia Law

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Petitioners challenged the FCC's adoption of two limitations to programs that make voice and broadband services more available and affordable for low-income consumers. Petitioners argued that the limitations limited the enhanced Tribal Lifeline subsidy to services provided by eligible telecommunications carriers that utilize their own fixed or mobile wireless facilities, excluding carriers that resell services provided over other carriers' facilities (Tribal Facilities Requirement). Second, it limited the enhanced Tribal Lifeline subsidy to residents of "rural" areas on Tribal lands (Tribal Rural Limitation). The DC Circuit granted the petition for review, holding that the Commission's adoption of these two limitations was arbitrary and capricious by not providing a reasoned explanation for its change of policy that is supported by record evidence. In this case, by adopting the Tribal Facilities Requirement, the Commission's decision failed to consider the exodus of facilities-based providers; did not point to evidence that banning resellers from the Tribal Lifeline program would promote network buildout; failed to analyze the impact of the facilities requirement on Tribal residents who currently rely on wireless resellers; and ignored that the Commission's decision was a fundamental change that adversely affects the access and affordability of service for residents of Tribal lands. Likewise, by adopting the Tribal Rural Limitation, the Commission failed to consider the impact on service access and affordability. Finally, the court held that non-harmless procedural defects also existed. View "National Lifeline Association v. FCC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Garrett Cornelius filed suit alleging invasion of privacy by newspaper, the Chronicle, after newspaper published two articles containing information about him. In a series of orders, the trial court granted newspaper’s motions to strike the claims under the anti-SLAPP statute and awarded newspaper a small fraction of the attorney’s fees it sought. Plaintiff appealed the orders striking his claims, and the newspaper appealed the amount of attorney’s fees. Consolidating the cases for review, the Vermont Supreme Court concluded the claims were properly stricken under the anti-SLAPP statute, but the court erred in limiting the attorney’s fees award. View "Cornelius v. The Chronicle, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Biometric Information Privacy Act, 740 ILCS 14/1, imposes restrictions on how private entities collect, retain, disclose and destroy biometric identifiers, including retina or iris scans, fingerprints, voiceprints, scans of hand or face geometry, or biometric information. Under the Act, any person “aggrieved” by a violation of its provisions “shall have a right of action … against an offending party” and “may recover for each violation” the greater of liquidated damages or actual damages, reasonable attorney fees and costs, and any other relief, including an injunction, that the court deems appropriate. Six Flags Great America amusement park sells repeat-entry passes that use a fingerprinting process. The plaintiff alleged that she bought a season pass for her minor son, who was fingerprinted while on a school field trip, and that she had not been previously informed of, nor consented to, the process. She alleges that, although her son has not returned to the Park, Six Flags retains the biometric information. Reversing the appellate court, the Illinois Supreme Court held that one qualifies as an “aggrieved” person and may seek liquidated damages and injunctive relief pursuant to the Act even if he has not alleged some actual injury or adverse effect, beyond a violation of his rights under the statute. View "Rosenbach v. Six Flags Entertainment Corp." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the Jackson Hole Airport Board (Board) in this action brought by Wyoming Jet Center, LLC seeking access to certain records held by the Board, holding that the district court erred in ruling that the Board was not subject to the record disclosure requirements of the Wyoming Public Records Act (WPRA). In ruling in the Board’s favor, the district court concluded that the Special District Public Records and Meetings Act governed the Board’s record disclosure requirements, not the WPRA. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the Special District Act defines neither the Board’s record retention requirements nor its disclosure requirements; and (2) the WPRA governed the Board’s public record disclosure requirements. View "Wyoming Jet Center, LLC v. Jackson Hole Airport Board" on Justia Law

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T Mobile unsuccessfully applied to Wilmington’s Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) for permission to erect an antenna. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 allows a disappointed wireless service provider to seek review in a district court “within 30 days after” a zoning authority’s “final action,” 47 U.S.C. 332(c)(7)(B)(v), T Mobile filed suit. After the case had proceeded for over a year, the district court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction because the claim was not ripe; T Mobile filed its complaint before the ZBA released a written decision confirming an earlier oral rejection of the zoning application. T Mobile had not supplemented its complaint to include the ZBA’s written decision within 30 days of its issuance. The Third Circuit remanded the case. While only a written decision can serve as a locality’s final action when denying an application and the issuance of that writing is the government “act” ruled by the 30-day provision, that timing requirement is not jurisdictional. An untimely supplemental complaint can, by relating back, cure an initial complaint that was unripe. The district court had jurisdiction and should not have granted Wilmington’s motion for summary judgment. View "T Mobile Northeast LLC v. Wilmington" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted the writ of mandamus sought by Relator seeking to compel the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) to release security-camera video footage related to a use-of-force incident at Marion Correctional Institution, holding that Relator was entitled to the writ and that Relator was further entitled to attorney fees and statutory damages. DRC argued that the video at issue was not a public record because it qualified as an “infrastructure record” and a “security record,” both of which were exceptions to the definition of a “public record” and therefore not subject to release or disclosure under Ohio Rev. Code 149.433. The Supreme Court disagreed and ordered DRC to provide Relator with an unreacted copy of the requested video, holding (1) the requested record was neither an infrastructure record nor a security record; (2) DRC was required to reimburse Relator for the court costs he paid to commence this action; (3) Relator was entitled to attorney fees and statutory damages; and (4) DRC’s motion for a protective order is denied as moot. View "State ex rel. Rogers v. Department of Rehabilitation and Correction" on Justia Law

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In this case concerning the propriety of State and local agencies withholding certain officer communications when disclosure is requested by a member of the public, the Supreme Court vacated the grant of summary judgment, holding that the State Office of Information Practices palpably erred in interpreting a statutory exception to create the sweeping “deliberative process privilege.” The Office of Information Practices took the position that, based on a statutory exception provided in Hawaii’s public record law that permits the nondisclosure of records that would frustrate a legitimate government function if revealed, so-called deliberative process privilege existed that protected all pre-decisional, deliberative agency records without regard for the relative harm that would result from any specific disclosure. Relying on this information, the Office and Financial Services for the City and County of Honolulu denied a public records request for internal documents generated during the setting the annual operating budget. The Supreme Court remanded for a redetermination of whether the records withheld pursuant to the deliberative process privilege fell within a statutory exception to the disclosure requirement, holding that the deliberative process privilege is clearly irreconcilable with the plain language and legislative history of Hawaii’s public record laws. View "Peer News LLC v. City & County of Honolulu" on Justia Law