by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
Plaintiffs, aggrieved at their portrayal in a documentary on gun violence called Under the Gun, filed suit alleging defamation by the film's creators. The crux of plaintiffs' defamation claims was that an edited interview manufactured a false exchange that made them look ridiculous, incompetent, and ignorant about firearm ownership and sales, including the policies surrounding background checks. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint, holding that the edited footage did not arise to the level of defamation under Virginia law. The court held that plaintiffs' defamation per se claims failed, and that the edited footage was not reasonably capable of suggesting that the Virginia Citizens Defense League and its members were "ignorant and incompetent on the subject to which they have dedicated their organizational mission." Finally, regardless of how certain media outlets covered the short-lived frenzy surrounding this incident, the Supreme Court of Virginia has consistently stressed that it is the province of courts to perform the gatekeeping role of distinguishing defamatory speech from mere insults. In this case, the district court properly performed its independent gatekeeping role and the district court reached the correct result on the merits. View "VA Citizens Defense League v. Couric" on Justia Law

by
The lead plaintiffs in consolidated purported class actions received faxed advertisements that allegedly did not comply with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), 47 U.S.C. 227 and the Federal Communication Commission’s Solicited Fax Rule. Each district court refused to certify the proposed class, largely on the authority of the D.C. Circuit’s 2017 decision in Bais Yaakov of Spring Valley v. FCC, regarding the validity of the FCC’s 2006 Solicited Fax Rule. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. At a minimum, it is necessary to distinguish between faxes sent with permission of the recipient and those that are truly unsolicited. The question of what suffices for consent is central, and it is likely to vary from recipient to recipient. The district courts were within their rights to conclude that there are enough other problems with class treatment here that a class action is not a superior mechanism for adjudicating these cases. View "Alpha Tech Pet, Inc. v. Lagasse, LLC" on Justia Law

by
The Architect of the Capitol removed high school student David Pulphus’ painting from the exhibition of the 2016 winners of the Congressional Art Competition. The painting was initially described as “a colorful landscape of symbolic characters representing social injustice, the tragic events in Ferguson, Missouri, and the lingering elements of inequality in modern American society.” It was removed after protests by police unions and a FOX news personality, based on a newspaper story that described it as “depicting police officers as pigs with guns terrorizing a black neighborhood.” After unsuccessfully asking that the House Office Building Commission overrule the removal decision, Pulphus and Missouri Congressman Clay unsuccessfully sought a preliminary injunction, alleging violations of their First Amendment rights. The D.C. Circuit dismissed an appeal as moot; the 2016 Congressional Art Competition is over and no other concrete, redressable injury is alleged that was caused by the Architect’s removal decision. View "Pulphus v. Ayers" on Justia Law

by
Defendants conduct online fantasy‐sports games. Participants pay an entry fee and select a roster, subject to a budget cap that prevents every entrant from picking only the best players. Results from real sports contests determine how each squad earns points to win cash. Former college football players whose names, pictures, and statistics have been used without their permission sued, claiming that Indiana’s right-of-publicity statute, Code 32‐36‐1‐8, gives them control over the commercial use of their names and data. The district court dismissed the complaint, relying on exemptions for the use of a personality’s name, voice, signature, photograph, image, likeness, distinctive appearance, gestures, or mannerisms "in" material “that has political or newsworthy value” or “in connection with the broadcast or reporting of an event or a topic of general or public interest." The Seventh Circuit affirmed after the Supreme Court of Indiana responded to a certified question that: Indiana’ right of publicity statute contains an exception for material with newsworthy value that includes online fantasy sports operators’ use of college players’ names, pictures, and statistics for online fantasy contests. View "Daniels v. Fanduel, Inc." on Justia Law

by
On April 21, 2004, and March 22, 2005, Defendants sent unsolicited faxes to Dr. Weitzner’s office. Weitzner filed a putative class action in Pennsylvania state court under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), 47 U.S.C. 227(b)(1)(C), including at least one fax sent to Weitzner. The proposed class included all individuals “who received an unsolicited facsimile advertisement from defendants between January 2, 2001[,] and the date of the resolution of this lawsuit.” In June 2008, the court denied class certification. The case continues as Weitzner's individual action. Defendants stopped sending unsolicited faxes in April 2005. In 2011, Weitzner and his professional corporation (Plaintiffs) brought individual claims based on the same faxes, plus class claims similar to those alleged in state court. The court dismissed, concluding that the four-year federal default statute of limitations, 28 U.S.C. 1658, applicable. The Third Circuit affirmed, rejecting a claim under the Supreme Court’s “American Pipe” holding that the timely filing of a class action tolls the applicable statute of limitations for putative class members until the propriety of maintaining the class is determined. American Pipe permits putative class members to file only individual claims after a denial of class certification and does not toll the limitations period for named plaintiffs like Weitzner. Any judgment in favor of Weitzner P.C. would benefit only Dr. Weitzner. Applying tolling to P.C.’s claims would effectively allow Weitzner to pursue his claims for a second time outside the limitations period. View "Weitzner v. Sanofi Pasteur, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing this qui tam action filed under the Minnesota False Claims Act, Minn. Stat. 15C.02 (MFCA), claiming that Respondents intentionally failed to pay fees and surcharges due to the State, holding that Appellant failed to state a claim as a matter of law. The fees and surcharges that were the subject of this litigation were imposed by statute for 911 services, the Telecommunications Access Minnesota (TAM) program, and the Telephone Assistance Plan (TAP) program. Respondents, telecommunications carriers, moved for dismissal, arguing that the 911, TAM, and TAP charges were all taxes and, therefore, dismissal was warranted because the MCFA does not allow qui tam actions based on “claims, records, or statements made under portions of Minnesota Statues relating to taxation,” Minn. Stat. 15C.03. The court of appeals agreed that the 911, TAM, and TAP surcharges were taxes, and therefore, this claim was prohibited by the tax bar provided in the MFCA. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, as the statutes at issue are currently written, the 911 fee, TAM charge, and TAP surcharges are taxes, and therefore, this action was barred. View "Phone Recovery Services, LLC v. Qwest Corp." on Justia Law