Justia U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Communications Law

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Plaintiffs Andrew Alwert and Stanley Feldman brought putative class actions against Cox Communications, Inc. (Cox) claiming that Cox violated antitrust law by tying its premium cable service to rental of a set-top box. The district court granted Cox’s motions to compel arbitration, then certified the orders compelling arbitration for interlocutory appeal. The Tenth Circuit granted Plaintiffs permission to appeal. They argued that the arbitration order was improper because: (1) the dispute was not within the scope of the arbitration agreement; (2) Cox waived its right to invoke arbitration; and (3) Cox’s promise to arbitrate was illusory, so the arbitration agreement was unenforceable. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed, holding that the arbitration clause in Plaintiffs’ subscriber agreements with Cox covered the underlying litigation and that Cox did not waive its right to arbitration. The Court did not resolve Plaintiffs’ argument that Cox’s promises were illusory because the argument amounted to a challenge to the contract as a whole, which was a question to be decided in arbitration. View "Alwert v. Cox Enterprises" on Justia Law

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In late 2011, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking comprehensively reforming and modernizing its universal service and intercarrier compensation systems. Petitioners, all parties to the rulemaking proceeding, filed petitions for judicial review of the FCC’s Order. In multiple briefs, petitioners asserted a host of challenges to the portions of the Order revising how universal service funds are to be allocated to and employed by recipients. After carefully considering those claims, the Tenth Circuit found them either unpersuasive or barred from judicial review. Consequently, the Court denied the petitions to the extent they were based upon those claims. View "IN RE: FCC 11-161" on Justia Law

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Council Tree Investors, Inc. requested nullification of the FCC's auction of the 700-MHz wireless spectrum conducted in early 2008 pursuant to a Waiver Order. Council Tree filed a Petition for Reconsideration of the Waiver Order in 2007, as well as a Supplement to the Waiver Reconsideration Petition in 2011. In its Waiver Reconsideration Order, the FCC dismissed the Waiver Reconsideration Petition as moot and dismissed the Supplement as untimely. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the FCC's decision. View "Council Tree Investors, Inc., et al v. FCC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Gayen Hancock, David Cross, Montez Mutzig, and James Bollinger sought to represent a class of customers dissatisfied with "U-verse," a digital telecommunications service offered by Defendants AT&T and several of its subsidiaries. The Oklahoma federal district court dismissed their claims based on forum selection and arbitration clauses in the U-verse terms of service. Plaintiffs appealed the dismissal of their claims. Finding no error in the district court's interpretation of the terms of service, and finding no abuse of the court's discretion, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Plaintiffs' claims. View "Hancock v. American Telephone & Telegraph Company, Inc." on Justia Law

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The plaintiffs filed this action against Cox Enterprises, Inc., on behalf of themselves as well as a putative class consisting of all persons in the United States who subscribe to Cox for so-called premium cable and who paid Cox a monthly rental fee for the accompanying set-up box. In order to receive full access to Cox’s premium cable services the plaintiffs had to rent the set-up box from Cox. The plaintiffs alleged that this constituted an illegal tie-in in violation of the Sherman Act. The case came before the Tenth Circuit on the district court's denial of their request for class certification. Upon review of the materials filed with the Court and the applicable law, the Tenth Circuit concluded the case was not appropriate for immediate review, and denied plaintiffs' request. View "Gelder, et al v. CoxCom Inc., et al" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Gol TV produces soccer-related television programming, while Defendants EchoStar Satellite Corporation and EchoStar Satellite L.L.C. (known as DISH Network) distribute television programming to individual viewers via satellite. From 2003 until 2008, Gol TV’s programming was made available to subscribers of certain EchoStar service packages in exchange for EchoStar’s payment to Gol TV of contractually determined licensing fees. Gol TV brought a breach-of-contract suit against Echostar to recover monies due under the contract. The issue on appeal central to this dispute involved: (1) the calculation of licensing fees for the final ten days of the contract period; and (2) the accrual of interest for overdue payments. Upon review of the contract at issue, the Tenth Circuit agreed with the district court's interpretation and affirmed its disposition of the case. View "Gol TV v. Echostar" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Qwest Corporation sought review of an order of the Federal Communications Commission which denied Qwest’s petition for regulatory forbearance pursuant to 47 U.S.C. 160(a). Qwest filed a petition with the Commission in March 2009 seeking relief from certain regulations pertaining to telecommunications services in the Phoenix, Arizona, metropolitan statistical area (MSA). The Commission denied the petition, citing insufficient evidence of sufficiently robust competition that would preclude Qwest from raising prices, unreasonably discriminating, and harming consumers. Qwest challenged the Commission’s decision only as it pertained to Qwest’s mass-market retail services. Upon review, the Tenth Circuit denied Qwest's petition: "We are not a 'panel of referees on a professional economics journal,' but a 'panel of generalist judges obliged to defer to a reasonable judgment by an agency acting pursuant to congressionally delegated authority.'" The Court found the Commission's order was not "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law." View "Qwest Corp. v. Fed. Communications Comm'n" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Lisa R. Chapo appealed a district court's order upholding the Commissioner of Social Security's denial of her application for disability and supplemental security income benefits. The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) denied benefits at the last step of the five-step process for determining disability. At step five the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled because, "[c]onsidering [her] age, education [high school], work experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that [she] can perform," namely the jobs of appointment clerk, escort vehicle driver, and office helper identified by the vocational expert (VE) who testified at the evidentiary hearing. On appeal to the Appeals Council, Plaintiff challenged the ALJ’s decision in several respects, in particular the ALJ’s treatment of the opinion evidence in the record. Upon review of the record, the Tenth Circuit concluded that ALJ’s handling of a testifying doctor's findings was erroneous and, as a result, the dispositive hypothetical inquiry put to the VE was fatally defective. "Indeed, that hypothetical did not even include a restriction (to 'simple' work) that the ALJ himself recognized in his decision." The Court concluded that this matter be remanded for further proceedings, "wherein the ALJ must either obtain a mental RFC determination from an examining source to oppose [the doctor], articulate some other adequate basis for discounting [his] findings, or come back to the VE with a proper hypothetical including those limitations (and his own restriction to 'simple' work, should the ALJ find it appropriate to re-impose such a restriction in the RFC determined on remand)." View "Chapo v. Astrue" on Justia Law

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In 2005, Appellant CCCOK, Inc. filed a complaint at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC) against Southwestern Bell Telephone, L.P.(SWBT). CCCOK sought an order directing SWBT to pay it over two-million dollars in compensation for SWBT's alleged breach of a contract between them. The OCC rejected CCCOK’s claim, concluding that CCCOK was not entitled to compensation under the "clear and unambiguous" language of the Parties' contract. The federal district court affirmed the OCC's ruling. CCCOK appealed. On appeal, CCCOK contended that the OCC's ruling was arbitrary and capricious because it: (1) disregarded the terms of the parties' contract; (2) contradicted record evidence; and (3) violated CCCOK's rights under state and federal law. Upon review, the Tenth Circuit concluded that the OCC's ruling was not arbitrary and capricious and it affirmed the district court's decision.

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In 2003, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) sought a preliminary injunction against ClearOne Communications, Inc. based on suspicions of irregular accounting practices and securities law violations. During a hearing on the preliminary injunction, Defendant and former CEO Susie Strohm was asked if she was involved in a particular sale by ClearOne that was the focus of the SEC’s case. She said she was not and approximated that she learned of the sale either before or after the end of ClearOne’s fiscal year. Based on this testimony, Defendant was later convicted of one count of perjury. She argued on appeal to the Tenth Circuit that her conviction should be reversed because (1) the questioning at issue was ambiguous, (2) her testimony was literally true, and (3) even if false, her testimony was not material to the court’s decision to grant the preliminary injunction. The Tenth Circuit disagreed on all three points. The Court found the questions were not ambiguous and there was sufficient evidence to demonstrate Defendant knowingly made false statements. Also, Defendant's testimony was material to the preliminary injunction hearing because it related to a transaction the SEC believed demonstrated ClearOne’s accounting irregularities. The Court therefore affirmed Defendant's conviction.