Justia Communications Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals
Free Speech Coal., Inc. v. Atty Gen. of the United States
Plaintiffs, involved in the adult media industry, challenged the constitutionality of 18 U.S.C. 2257 and 2257A, criminal laws imposing record-keeping, labeling, and inspection requirements on producers of sexually explicit depictions. The district court dismissed. The Third Circuit vacated in part. With respect to an as-applied challenge, the district court properly held that the statutes are content-neutral and that intermediate scrutiny applies, but plaintiffs should have an opportunity to conduct discovery and develop the record regarding whether they are narrowly tailored. With respect to a facial challenge, the court stated that certain statutory definitions are not readily susceptible to limiting constructions. View "Free Speech Coal., Inc. v. Atty Gen. of the United States" on Justia Law
Johnson v. City of Philadelphia
The ordinance prohibits posting signs on utility poles, streetlights, sign posts, and trees in a public right-of-way. At the time their actions were brought, plaintiffs were both candidates for political office in an area of the city that contains "a classic urban landscape of row house neighborhoods, where most homes have no front yard." They claimed that, given their limited funds, they would have ordinarily relied heavily on signs posted on street poles to spread their political messages. Several political candidates received numerous tickets. The district court ruled in favor of the city. The Third Circuit affirmed, rejecting claims that the ordinance violated the First, Fourteenth, and Twenty-Fourth Amendments. Plaintiffs conceded that the ordinance is content-neutral. It is narrowly tailored to serve significant governmental interests and leaves open ample alternatives for communication. View "Johnson v. City of Philadelphia" on Justia Law
CBS Corp. v. Fed. Commc’n Comm’n
In 2008 the Third Circuit ruled that the Federal Communications Commission's imposition of a $550,000 fine on CBS was arbitrary. The fine was based on a 2004 incident: the exposure, for nine-sixteenths of one second, of Janet Jackson's bare right breast during the live halftime performance of Super Bowl XXXVIII. The Supreme Court remanded for consideration under its 2009 ruling in F.C.C. v. Fox Television Stations, Inc., which concerned the FCC's decision to abandon its "fleeting words" safe harbor for expletives that are not repeated. On remand, the Third Circuit readopted its earlier holding that the penalty on CBS amounted to an unannounced policy change.The evidence weighed against the FCC contention that its restrained enforcement policy for fleeting material extended only to fleeting words and not to fleeting images. View "CBS Corp. v. Fed. Commc'n Comm'n" on Justia Law
Litman v. Cellco Partnership
This case was remanded from the U.S. Supreme Court. Appellants Keith Litman and Robert Watchel asked the Third Circuit to reverse a district court order that compelled them to arbitrate their contract dispute with Cellco Partnership (d/b/a Verizon Wireless) on an individual rather than class-wide basis. In an unpublished opinion, the Third Circuit vacated the district court order because a recent Third Circuit precedent bound the Court to conclude that class arbitration should have been available to Appellants. Verizon responded by seeking a stay of the mandate and seeking review by the Supreme Court. Having reviewed the supplemental briefing and applicable legal authority, the Third Circuit concluded that the applicable law at issue that required the availability of classwide arbitration created a scheme inconsistent with the Federal Arbitration Act. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the district court’s order compelling individual arbitration in accordance with the terms of the individual Appellants’ contracts with Verizon. View "Litman v. Cellco Partnership" on Justia Law
Pittsburgh League of Young Voters Ed. Fund v. Port Auth Allegheny Cnty.
Unlike many states, Pennsylvania allows felons to vote immediately upon release from prison. To correct widespread misunderstanding, public-interest organizations planned an advertisement encouraging ex-prisoners to vote. The Port Authority denied a request to place the ad on buses, based on a written policy, prohibiting noncommercial ads. Evidence indicated that, despite the policy, the Authority had accepted many noncommercial ads in recent years. The district court found viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment. The Third Circuit affirmed, noting that the rejection was based on hostility to the ad's message and that the Authority is not now required to accept all noncommercial messages. View "Pittsburgh League of Young Voters Ed. Fund v. Port Auth Allegheny Cnty." on Justia Law
Doe v. Indian River Sch. Dist.
The school board has a policy of praying at its regular meetings, routinely attended by students. The district court upheld the policy, based on a Supreme Court holding that Nebraska's practice of opening legislative sessions with a prayer was not a violation of the Establishment Clause. The Third Circuit reversed, holding that a school board may not claim the exception established for legislative bodies and that traditional Establishment Clause principles governing prayer in public schools apply. View "Doe v. Indian River Sch. Dist." on Justia Law
Doe v. Megless
The school district and chief of police sent an e-mail to officials and citizens instructing them "if you see this person in or around the district schools, please contact the police." Plaintiff claimed that the email used his real name and stated that he had been known to hang around schools, had not approached any kids, and that his mental status was unknown. It contained his picture, home address, the make, model, and license plate number of his vehicle, and his driver's license number. His suit, under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleged deprivation of freedom of movement, illegal seizure of personal records, violation of right to privacy, conspiracy, and failure to train, supervise and discipline agents. The district court denied plaintiff's motion to proceed anonymously and, after a deadline for filing in his own name passed, dismissed. The Third Circuit affirmed. The district court provided two independently sufficient reasons for dismissal: refusal to prosecute in compliance with court orders and consideration of factors concluding that plaintiff would not suffer substantial harm that might sufficiently outweigh the public interest in an open trial. View "Doe v. Megless" on Justia Law
Prometheus Radio Project v. Fed.Commc’n Comm’n
In a 2004 decision, the Third Circuit affirmed the Federal Communications Commission‘s authority to regulate media ownership but remanded aspects of the Commission‘s 2003 Order that were not adequately supported by the record, including numerical limits for local television ownership, local radio ownership rule, rule on cross-ownership of media within local markets, and repeal of the failed station solicitation rule. A 2008 FCC rule retained radio/television cross-ownership rule, local television and radio ownership rules in existence prior to the 2003 order, a failed station solicitation rule, and set out a series of other measures to address broadcast ownership diversity, in a separate order. The Third Circuit affirmed the order, excepting the newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership rule, for which the Commission failed to meet the notice and comment requirements of the APA, and remanded provisions of the diversity ordered that relied on a revenue-based "eligible entity" definition. The court also remanded the FCC decision to defer consideration of other proposed definitions (such as for a socially and economically disadvantaged business), so that it may adequately justify or modify its approach to advancing broadcast ownership by minorities and women. View "Prometheus Radio Project v. Fed.Commc'n Comm'n" on Justia Law
Murphy v. Millennium Radio Grp
In 2006 the photographer took a picture of radio personalities for use in a magazine. An employee of the radio station scanned the picture, cutting off credit lines, and posted it on the internet. After the photographer's attorney contacted the station, the personalities made disparaging remarks about the photographer on the air. The photographer alleged violations of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 1201, the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 101, and defamation under New Jersey law. The district court entered summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The Sixth Circuit reversed. A cause of action under the DMCA may arise whenever the types of information listed in the statute and conveyed in connection with copies of a work, including in digital form, is falsified or removed, regardless of the form in which that information is conveyed. The fact that the photographer's name appeared in a printed gutter credit near the image rather than in an "automated copyright protection or management system" does not remove it from the protection of the Act. The trial court erred in finding "fair use" in the station's commercial use of a commercial photographer's copyrighted image. The photographer was given inadequate opportunity for discovery on the defamation claim. View "Murphy v. Millennium Radio Grp" on Justia Law
J.S. v. Blue Mtn. Sch. Dist.
The student was suspended for using a home computer to create an internet profile of her middle school principal, including sexual content and vulgar language. The site did not include the principal's name, but did include his picture from the school website. Other students were not able to view the site from school computers and the student made an effort to limit viewers to a few of her friends. The district court entered summary judgment in favor of the school on First Amendment claims (42. U.S.C. 1983). The Third Circuit reversed in part. The school violated the student's rights in suspending her for for off-campus speech that caused no substantial disruption in school and that could not reasonably have led school officials to forecast substantial disruption in school. There was no disruption beyond "general rumblings" and a few minutes of talk in class; the profile was outrageous and there was no evidence that anyone took it seriously. The court rejected the parent's Fourteenth Amendment claim of interference with their "liberty" interest in raising their child. The court affirmed that the school handbook and computer use policy were not overbroad and vague. View "J.S. v. Blue Mtn. Sch. Dist." on Justia Law