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The Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the district court affirming the conclusions of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) that CPS Energy violated both Tex. Util. Code 54.204(c)'s uniform-charge requirement and section 54.204(b)'s prohibition of discrimination, holding that the PUC could reasonably have concluded, as it did, that CPS Energy violated the plain terms of section 54.204(b). The PUC concluded that a utility that invoices different telecommunications providers a uniform rate nevertheless violates section 54.204(b) if it fails to take timely action to ensure that all pole attachers actually pay the uniform rate it invoices. The court of appeals reversed, holding that if a telecommunications provider does not pay the rate the utility uniformly charges, any discriminatory effect is the telecommunication provider's fault, not the utility's. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the PUC's finding that CPS Energy failed to make any serious or meaningful effort to collect from AT&T Texas was supported by substantial evidence, and the effect on Time Warner Cable was clearly discriminatory. View "Time Warner Cable Texas LLC v. CPS Energy" on Justia Law

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Under 47 U.S.C. 555a(a), local authorities and municipalities, involved in the regulation of cable television services within their boundaries, are exempted from civil money damages liability in any lawsuit for any claim arising from the regulation of cable services. The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's grants of summary judgment for Comcast. In this case, Comcast sought money damages against a municipality, and thus the suit arose out of the regulation of cable services pursuant to section 555a(a), which barred the only relief Comcast sought. Accordingly, the panel remanded with instructions to dismiss Comcast's lawsuit. View "Comcast of Sacramento I, LLC v. Sacramento Metropolitan Cable Television Commission" on Justia Law

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The Board of Forensic Document Examiners (BFDE), a nonprofit organization, administers a certification program for forensic document examiners. The Board has certified about a dozen examiners. Vastrick, a forensic document examiner certified by another, much larger organization, the American Board of Forensic Document Examiners, published an article, Forensic Handwriting Comparison Examination in the Courtroom, in The Judges’ Journal, a peer-reviewed scholarly journal published by the ABA. Vastrick urged judges to look for experts certified by the American Board and warned judges to “be wary of other certifying bodies.” The article did not mention BFDE by name. BFDE submitted a rebuttal, but frustrated with the ABA’s suggested edits, BFDE filed suit, claiming defamation per se and invasion of privacy on behalf of its members. BFDE also asserted civil conspiracy, false advertising under the Lanham Act. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit, ruling that the article contained only constitutionally-protected, non-actionable opinion. The Journal warned readers that “[a]rticles represent the opinions of the authors alone” and “provide opposing views” for readers to consider. Vastrick highlighted the subjective nature of his article, presenting his views as suggestions, not facts. Vastrick’s assertion that the American Board “is the only certification board recognized by the broader forensic science community, law enforcement, and courts,” reflects the expression of a viewpoint and is so broad as to lack objective, verifiable meaning. View "Board of Forensic Document Examiners, Inc. v. American Bar Association" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a putative class action against AEO, alleging that unsolicited spam text messages they received were in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. After the parties agreed to settle, third party defendant Experian objected to certification, arguing that plaintiffs lacked standing under Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 136 S. Ct. 1540 (2016). Class member Bowes objected to the settlement as unfair. The district court approved both the settlement and certified the settlement class. The Second Circuit held that plaintiffs' receipt of the unsolicited text messages, without any other injury, was sufficient to demonstrate injury-in-fact. The court held that plaintiffs were not required to demonstrate any additional harm because the nuisance and privacy invasion attendant on spam texts were the very harms with which Congress was concerned when enacting the Act. Furthermore, history confirms that causes of action to remedy such injuries were traditionally regarded as providing bases for lawsuits in English or American courts. Therefore, the court dismissed Experian's appeal. The court affirmed with respect to Bowes' appeal, because the district court acted within its discretion in approving the class settlement. View "Melito v. Experian Marketing Solutions, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's dismissal of Plaintiff's complaint against Armslist, LLC, holding that because all of Plaintiff's claims for relief required Armslist to be treated as the publisher or speaker of information posted by third parties on Armslist's firearm advertising website, armslist.com, the circuit court properly dismissed Plaintiff's complaint. This tort action arose from a mass shooting in a Wisconsin spa that killed four people, including Plaintiff's motion. In her action, Plaintiff alleged that the shooter illegally purchased the firearm used in the shooting after responding to a private seller's post on armslist.com. The circuit court dismissed the complaint, concluding that the federal Communications Decency Act (CDA), 47 U.S.C. 230, barred all of Plaintiff's claims against Armslist. The court of appeals reversed, holding that the CDA does not protect a website operator from liability for its own actions in designing and operating its website. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that section 230(c)(1) prohibits claims that treat Armslist, an interactive computer service provider, as the publisher or speaker of information posted by a third party on its website, and therefore, Plaintiff's claims are barred by section 230(c)(1). View "Daniel v. Armslist, LLC" on Justia Law

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The issue before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in this case concerned whether counties could advance common law claims seeking legal redress against telecommunications companies for alleged deficiencies in their administration of fees associated with 911 emergency communication services. The Supreme Court concluded the Legislature balanced counties’ interests against those of other co-participants enlisted under the 911 Act and provided sufficient indicia evincing its intention to centralize enforcement authority in the relevant state agency. "Although we realize that the County may have been disadvantaged by PEMA’s apparent failure to act, this unfortunate circumstance does not control the judicial construction of a legislative enactment." Thus, the Court reversed the Commonwealth Court, and reinstated the order of the court of common pleas. View "Co. of Butler v. Centurylink, et al.." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the FCC and the Government, in an action alleging that part of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA) contravenes the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. In relevant part, the Act prohibits calls to cell phones by use of an automated dialing system or an artificial or prerecorded voice, subject to three statutory exemptions. Specifically, plaintiffs alleged that one of the statutory exemptions to the automated call ban — created by a 2015 TCPA amendment — is facially unconstitutional under the Free Speech Clause. Although the Fourth Circuit agreed with the district court that strict scrutiny review applied in this case, it held that the debt collection exemption fails to satisfy strict scrutiny, constitutes an unconstitutional content-based restriction on speech, and therefore violates the Free Speech Clause. The court concluded that the flawed exemption could be severed from the automatic call ban. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded. View "American Association of Political Consultants, Inc. v. FCC" on Justia Law

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In 2018, the Sixth Circuit reversed the district court’s order granting a preliminary injunction that had enjoined Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government from enforcing Ordinance 25-2017, which restricts the delivery of “unsolicited written materials” to six enumerated locations and provides for civil penalties for violations. On remand, further proceedings were taken in the district court. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court in concluding that Ordinance 25-2017 constitutes a valid time, place, and manner regulation of speech. View "Lexington H-L Services, Inc. v. Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government" on Justia Law

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Dobson Telephone Company appealed the Oklahoma Corporation Commission's denial of its application for reimbursement from the Oklahoma Universal Services Fund for expenses incurred when it was ordered by the State Department of Transportation to relocate its telephone lines within the public right-of-way of a State construction project. The issue in this appeal concerned the Commission's legal interpretation of the Oklahoma Universal Service Fund ("OUSF") statute and the alleged arbitrary and capricious denial of funding in violation of the Oklahoma Constitution. In support of its decision to deny Dobson's requested funding, the Commission's majority found that Dobson failed to produce sufficient evidence into the record. Despite acknowledging that its "Administrator was afforded, and took advantage of, the opportunity to perform a 'review of the Application, contractor's invoices, internal invoices, construction drawings, pre-engineering plans, work orders, plans and maps, timesheets, reimbursement checks, contracts, responses to data requests, relevant Oklahoma Statutes,' its own administrative rules regarding the OUSF," the Commission ignored the Administrator's finding that the documents provided by Dobson supported its request for funding. Dobson argued, and the Commission did not dispute, that the Commission's own rules and long-standing practices encouraged applicants to retain its confidential supporting materials on site, making such materials available for review and inspection as needed to support an application. In fact, Commission rule, OAC 165:59-3-72(d), specifically contemplates that "documentation not contained in the public record and not filed in the cause" may nevertheless be "relied upon by the OUSF Administrator in approving or denying an application." The Administrator disclosed that the Commission does not even have procedures in place that would allow it to handle "the responsibility or liability" of receiving such confidential materials. The Oklahoma Supreme Court determined the Commission majority's disapproval of the policy behind the OUSF legislation had no bearing on the validity of an applicant's request for funding. The Court agreed with the dissenting Commissioner that it was the Court's duty to uphold legislation as it was enacted: although the Commission was not bound by the Administrator's recommendation, the Supreme Court found the record reflected ample evidence with which to support the Administrator's determination. The Administrator, as well as the dissenting Commissioner, both agreed Dobson was entitled to reimbursement of the increased costs it incurred as a result of ODOT's mandate to relocate the telephone lines. The Commission's wholesale denial of Dobson's request was in error. View "Dobson Telephone Co. v. Oklahoma Corporation Comm." on Justia Law

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Dobson Telephone Company appealed the Oklahoma Corporation Commission's denial of its application for reimbursement from the Oklahoma Universal Services Fund for expenses incurred when it was ordered by the State Department of Transportation to relocate its telephone lines within the public right-of-way of a State construction project. Dobson made detailed, confidential information regarding the project's costs available for inspection to the Commission's OUSF Administrator. This included information regarding the costs incurred, invoices for engineering, equipment and supplies, and internal employee timesheets and wages. The Administrator reviewed Dobson's application, inspected the confidential information and ultimately approved a reimbursement for Dobson in the amount of $54,766.71. It disallowed $265.83 due to a lack of supporting invoices and/or accounting in Dobson's documents. Various competitor telephone companies objected and filed a Request for Reconsideration. A hearing was held before an ALJ, where the evidence was briefed and summarized, additional testimony was taken, and the objecting parties were permitted to cross-examine witnesses--including the Administrator--and present evidence or argument to the contrary. The ALJ upheld the Administrator's recommendation, agreeing that Dobson was an eligible provider, that the facilities in question were used in the provision of primary universal services, and that the expenses incurred by Dobson were as a result of a state government mandate. Thereafter, the Commission voted, 2-1, to deny Dobson's request. The two-person majority found that Dobson's request was not sufficiently supported by evidence as the confidential information reviewed by its Administrator was not included in the record before the Commission. The Oklahoma Supreme Court concluded that although the Commission was not bound by the Administrator's recommendation, the record reflected ample evidence with which to support the Administrator's determination. The Administrator, as well as the dissenting Commissioner, both agreed Dobson was entitled to reimbursement of the increased costs it incurred as a result of ODOT's mandate to relocate the telephone lines. The Commission's wholesale denial of Dobson's request was in error. View "Dobson Telephone Co. v. Oklahoma ex rel. Oklahoma Corporation Comm." on Justia Law