Justia Communications Law Opinion Summaries

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A group of media organizations and reporters sought copies of law enforcement recordings of a march in Graham, North Carolina. The Superior Court granted their petition, but the Court of Appeals vacated the order, arguing that the trial court failed to determine the petitioners' eligibility to request copies of the recordings under the statute. The Court of Appeals also held that the trial court did not understand that it could place conditions or restrictions on the release of the recordings.The Supreme Court of North Carolina disagreed with the Court of Appeals' interpretation of the statute, stating that anyone may seek copies of law enforcement recordings under the provision invoked by the petitioners, so the trial court had no reason to question their eligibility. However, the Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Appeals that the trial court erroneously believed that it could not condition or restrict the release of the recordings.The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the Court of Appeals and remanded the case for further proceedings. The Supreme Court concluded that the trial court did not need to determine the petitioners' eligibility to request the recordings, but it did err in believing it could not place conditions or restrictions on the release of the recordings. View "In re The McClatchy Company, LLC" on Justia Law

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Tammy and James Rutledge filed a lawsuit against Pamela Menard and Randall Nappi, seeking to recover personal property. The Rutledges followed the instructions on Form CV-218, which was available on the Maine Judicial Branch's website, to serve the defendants. This form was created during the COVID-19 pandemic and instructed plaintiffs to prepare for a telephonic status conference as the first court event. However, by the time the Rutledges filed their lawsuit, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court had rescinded most of the pandemic management orders, and court proceedings had returned to an in-person format.The District Court (Bridgton, Malia, J.) dismissed the Rutledges' complaint with prejudice due to their failure to appear in person for a hearing. The Rutledges had mistakenly believed that the initial court proceeding would be a telephonic status conference, as per the instructions on Form CV-218. They appealed the decision, arguing that the court erred in dismissing their case with prejudice and denying their post-judgment motion to reopen the case or amend the judgment to a dismissal without prejudice.The Maine Supreme Judicial Court found that the District Court did not err in finding that the Rutledges failed to appear. However, it held that the dismissal with prejudice was too drastic a sanction given the circumstances. The court noted that the Judicial Branch's website continued to direct parties to Form CV-218, which no longer reflected current court practices, contributing to the Rutledges' mistaken belief. The court also noted that the Rutledges' nonappearance was neither deliberate nor the result of misconduct, and they made a sustained effort to remedy their error. The court vacated the judgment and remanded the case to the District Court for entry of a judgment of dismissal without prejudice. View "Rutledge v. Menard" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around an accident where the plaintiff, Daniel Bennett, was injured when his vehicle abruptly stopped after driving over a downed telecommunications line owned by Cox Communications of Louisiana (“Cox”). Bennett filed a lawsuit against several defendants, including Cox and Cable Man, Inc., a company contracted by Cox to maintain the line. Bennett alleged that both Cox and Cable Man were negligent in their handling of the line and their failure to properly train their employees.Cox, in response, invoked an indemnification agreement under their contract with Cable Man, requiring Cable Man to indemnify and defend Cox against any claims related to Cable Man's work. Cable Man refused the tender and filed an Exception of Prematurity, arguing that without a finding of liability or a judgment, the claim for indemnity was premature. The trial court denied the exception, but the Court of Appeal, First Circuit, reversed the trial court's ruling, finding Cox’s claim for indemnity to be premature.The Supreme Court of Louisiana, however, reversed the Court of Appeal's decision. The court held that a claim for indemnity raised during the pendency of the litigation and before a finding of liability is not premature. The court reasoned that this finding aligns with principles of judicial economy and efficiency, and the relevant Code of Civil Procedure articles pertaining to third party practice. The court clarified that while the right to collect on an indemnity agreement is determined upon judgment or finding of liability or loss, there is no prohibition on asserting a claim for indemnity in the same proceeding. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Bennett v. Demco Energy Services, LLC" on Justia Law

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The plaintiff, Marina Soliman, filed a lawsuit against Subway Franchisee Advertising Fund Trust, Ltd. ("Subway"), alleging that a marketing text message she received on her cell phone violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). The text message was sent by an automated system using a pre-existing list of telephone numbers. Soliman argued that the text message constituted a call made using an automatic telephone dialing system or an artificial or prerecorded voice, both of which are prohibited under the TCPA.The United States District Court for the District of Connecticut dismissed Soliman's complaint. The court concluded that the TCPA only bars the use of a dialing system that randomly or sequentially generates telephone numbers, not a system that relies on a stored list of pre-existing telephone numbers. The court also held that the TCPA's prohibition on the use of an "artificial or prerecorded voice" did not apply to text messages.On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The appellate court agreed that the TCPA does not apply to a system that dials numbers from a pre-existing list, as such a system does not generate telephone numbers. The court also agreed that a text message does not constitute an "artificial voice" under the TCPA. The court's decision was based on the text of the TCPA, the context in which the words appear, and the Supreme Court's decision in Facebook, Inc. v. Duguid. View "Soliman v. Subway Franchisee Advertising Fund Trust, Ltd." on Justia Law

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The case involves Scott Rosenthal, a Massachusetts resident, who filed a class action lawsuit against Bloomingdales.com, LLC, an Ohio-based company with its principal place of business in New York. Rosenthal alleged that Bloomingdales unlawfully intercepted and used information about his activity on its website. The company had commissioned third-party vendors to embed JavaScript computer code on its website, which was deployed onto Rosenthal's internet browser while he visited the site. This code intercepted, recorded, and mapped his electronic communications with the website. Rosenthal claimed that this violated the Massachusetts Wiretapping Act and the Massachusetts Invasion of Privacy Statute.The United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts dismissed Rosenthal's complaint for lack of specific personal jurisdiction over Bloomingdales. The court concluded that the defendant's conduct, which formed the basis of Rosenthal's claims, occurred outside of Massachusetts. The court also determined that Bloomingdales had not initiated contact with Massachusetts. Because the complaint failed to identify a 'demonstrable nexus' between Rosenthal's claims and Bloomingdale's contacts with Massachusetts, the court found no basis for specific jurisdiction over Bloomingdales.The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal. The court found that Rosenthal failed to provide "affirmative proof" that Bloomingdales purposefully deployed the JavaScript code to intentionally target users in Massachusetts. The court concluded that Rosenthal had not sufficiently established that Bloomingdales purposefully availed itself of what Massachusetts has to offer, thus failing to meet the requirements for specific jurisdiction. View "Rosenthal v. Bloomingdales.com, LLC" on Justia Law

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In 2021, Hugo Escudero was investigated as a suspected wholesale cocaine dealer based on information provided by a confidential informant. The informant claimed that Escudero and his brother were selling large amounts of cocaine and used a runner, M.G., to deliver the drugs. Law enforcement officers corroborated this information through surveillance and obtained a GPS tracking warrant for Escudero's vehicle. This led to additional search warrants for Escudero's apartment and music studio. In September 2021, officers arrested Escudero and M.G. when they arrived with a kilogram of cocaine for a controlled buy.Escudero was indicted and filed a motion to suppress the evidence obtained from the tracking and search warrants. A federal magistrate judge recommended denying Escudero's motions to suppress, and the district court adopted this recommendation. During the trial, Escudero posted a message on M.G.'s Facebook page, which the court admitted into evidence as it was "probative of the consciousness of guilt" and not unfairly prejudicial. The jury found Escudero guilty of possessing five or more kilograms of cocaine with intent to distribute, and he was sentenced to 216 months of imprisonment.On appeal, Escudero challenged the legitimacy of the tracking warrant, the admission of his Facebook message, and the sufficiency of evidence for his guilty verdict. The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court found that the Leon good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule applied to the tracking warrant, the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting Escudero's Facebook message and witness list comment, and the evidence was sufficient to convict Escudero of possession. View "United States v. Escudero" on Justia Law

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A group of telecommunications carriers, including Assurance Wireless USA, L.P., MetroPCS California, LLC, Sprint Spectrum LLC, T-Mobile USA, Inc., and T-Mobile West LLC, sued the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) over a rule change. The CPUC had altered the mechanism for charging telecommunications providers to fund California’s universal service program. Previously, the program was funded based on revenue, but due to declining revenues, the CPUC issued a rule imposing surcharges on telecommunications carriers based on the number of active accounts, or access lines, rather than revenue.The carriers sought a preliminary injunction against the access line rule, arguing that it was preempted by the Telecommunications Act, which requires providers of interstate telecommunications services to contribute to the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) universal service mechanisms on an equitable and nondiscriminatory basis. The carriers argued that the access line rule was inconsistent with the FCC's rule and was inequitable and discriminatory.The United States District Court for the Northern District of California denied the preliminary injunction. The court found that the carriers were unlikely to succeed on the merits of their express preemption claims. It held that the access line rule was not inconsistent with the FCC's rule and was not inequitable or discriminatory.On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The appellate court agreed that the carriers were unlikely to succeed on the merits of their claims. It held that the access line rule was not inconsistent with the FCC's rule and was not inequitable or discriminatory. The court concluded that the carriers had failed to show that the access line rule burdened the FCC's universal service programs or that it unfairly advantaged or disadvantaged any provider. View "ASSURANCE WIRELESS USA, L.P. V. ALICE REYNOLDS" on Justia Law

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In 2021, New York enacted the Affordable Broadband Act (ABA), which required internet service providers to offer broadband internet to qualifying households at reduced prices. A group of trade organizations representing internet service providers sued, arguing that the ABA was preempted by federal law. The district court agreed with the plaintiffs and granted a preliminary injunction barring New York from enforcing the ABA. The parties later requested that the district court enter a stipulated final judgment and permanent injunction.The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit disagreed with the lower court's decision. The appellate court concluded that the ABA was not field-preempted by the Communications Act of 1934 (as amended by the Telecommunications Act of 1996), because the Act does not establish a framework of rate regulation that is sufficiently comprehensive to imply that Congress intended to exclude the states from entering the field. The court also concluded that the ABA was not conflict-preempted by the Federal Communications Commission’s 2018 order classifying broadband as an information service. The court reasoned that the order stripped the agency of its authority to regulate the rates charged for broadband internet, and a federal agency cannot exclude states from regulating in an area where the agency itself lacks regulatory authority. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment of the district court and vacated the permanent injunction. View "New York State Telecommunications Association, Inc. v. James" on Justia Law

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The case involves a professional photographer who sexually exploited a minor. The defendant initially contacted the victim through a social networking site and began communicating with her through various means, eventually soliciting and receiving explicit images of the victim. The defendant also met the victim in person and sexually abused her. After the victim's parents reported the exploitation to the police, an investigation was launched. The police seized a computer tower, an external hard drive, and other items from the defendant's former residence. A forensic examination of the hard drives revealed explicit images of the victim, communications between the defendant and the victim, and hundreds of images of unidentified females in various stages of undress.The defendant was indicted on multiple counts, including aggravated rape of a child and enticement of a minor. He pleaded guilty to all charges, except for the eight counts of aggravated rape of a child, where he pleaded guilty to the lesser included offense of statutory rape. After being sentenced, the defendant filed a motion for the return of the seized property. The Commonwealth opposed the return of the property, arguing that it was in the "public interest" to destroy the devices. The Superior Court denied the defendant's request for the return of certain property.The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts granted an application for direct appellate review. The court concluded that the procedural requirements set forth in G. L. c. 276, §§ 4 to 8, must be followed before a forfeiture decree may be issued under G. L. c. 276, § 3. The court vacated the Superior Court orders denying the return of certain property to the defendant and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with its opinion. View "Commonwealth v. James" on Justia Law

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In January 2021, John William Thomas Flechs, using the pseudonym “John Breezy,” began conversations on the Kik online messaging platform with someone he believed to be a 14-year-old boy. In fact, Flechs was messaging Sergeant John Haning, a member of the Rogers County, Oklahoma Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. Over the next four days, Flechs and the minor discussed sexual topics in graphic detail. After they discussed meeting in person, Flechs asked the minor if he would be going to the skatepark. When Flechs arrived at the skatepark, he handed two Dr. Pepper sodas to an officer posing as the minor. Officers then arrested him.A grand jury indicted Flechs for attempted enticement of a minor in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2422(b). A petit jury returned a guilty verdict. The district court sentenced Flechs to 120 months in prison and five years of supervised release. Flechs timely appealed.On appeal, Flechs argued that the trial evidence was insufficient to prove that he intended to entice the minor or took a substantial step toward enticement. He also argued that the jury instruction on the term “grooming” violated Federal Rule of Evidence 605, contained an unconstitutional presumption on the element of intent, and misstated the law. The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit rejected these arguments and affirmed the conviction. The court held that the evidence was sufficient to convict Flechs of attempted enticement of a minor under 18 U.S.C. § 2422(b). The court also held that the jury instruction on the term “grooming” did not violate Federal Rule of Evidence 605, did not contain an unconstitutional presumption on the element of intent, and did not misstate the law. View "United States v. Flechs" on Justia Law