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

Articles Posted in Communications Law
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Plaintiffs-Appellants Santa Fe Alliance for Public Health & Safety, Arthur Firstenberg, and Monika Steinhoff (collectively the “Alliance”) brought a number of claims under Section 704 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (“TCA”), New Mexico’s Wireless Consumer Advanced Infrastructure Investment Act (“WCAIIA”), the Amendments to Chapter 27 of the Santa Fe City City Code, and Santa Fe mayor proclamations. The Alliance alleged the statutes and proclamations violated due process, the Takings Clause, and the First Amendment. Through its amended complaint, the Alliance contended the installation of telecommunications facilities, primarily cellular towers and antennas, on public rights-of-way exposed its members to dangerous levels of radiation. The Alliance further contended these legislative and executive acts prevented it from effectively speaking out against the installation of new telecommunications facilities. The United States moved to dismiss under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), and (b)(6), and the City of Santa Fe moved to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). The district court concluded that while the Alliance pled sufficient facts to establish standing to assert its constitutional claims, the Alliance failed to allege facts stating any constitutional claim upon which relief could be granted, thus dismissing claims against all defendants, including New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas. The Tenth Circuit affirmed dismissal of the Alliance's constitutional claims, finding apart from the district court, that the Alliance lacked standing to raise its takings and due process claims not premised on an alleged denial of notice. Furthermore, the Court held that while the Alliance satisfied the threshold for standing as to its First Amendment and procedural due process claims (premised on the WCAIIA and Chapter 27 Amendments), the district court properly dismissed these claims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). View "Santa Fe Alliance v. City of Santa Fe" on Justia Law

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Blanca Telephone Company was a rural telecommunications carrier based in Alamosa, Colorado. To be profitable, Blanca must rely in part upon subsidies from the Universal Service Fund (USF), a source of financial support governed by federal law and funded through fees on telephone customers. And in order to receive subsidies from the USF, Blanca must abide by a complex set of rules governing telecommunications carriers. The Federal Communications Commission began an investigation in 2008 into Blanca’s accounting practices, and identified overpayments Blanca had received from the USF between 2005 and 2010. According to the FCC, Blanca improperly claimed roughly $6.75 million in USF support during this period for expenses related to providing mobile cellular services both within and outside Blanca’s designated service area. Blanca was entitled only to support for “plain old telephone service,” namely land lines, and not for mobile telephone services. The FCC issued a demand letter to Blanca seeking repayment. to Blanca seeking repayment. The agency eventually used administrative offsets of payments owed to Blanca for new subsidies to begin collection of the debt. Blanca objected to the FCC’s demand letter and sought agency review of the debt collection determination. During agency proceedings, the FCC considered and rejected Blanca’s objections. Before the Tenth Circuit, Blanca challenged the FCC’s demand letter. And Blanca claimed the FCC's decision should have been set aside because: and subsequent orders on a number of grounds. Blanca claims the FCC’s decision should be set aside because: (1) it was barred by the relevant statute of limitations; (2) it violated due process; and (3) it was arbitrary and capricious. The Tenth Circuit concluded the FCC’s debt collection was not barred by any statute of limitations, Blanca was apprised of the relevant law and afforded adequate opportunity to respond to the FCC’s decision, and the FCC was not arbitrary and capricious in its justifications for the debt collection. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the FCC. View "Blanca Telephone Company v. FCC" on Justia Law

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Prison Legal News (“PLN”) published a monthly magazine to help inmates navigate the criminal justice system. Between January 2010 and April 2014, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) rejected the distribution of 11 publications PLN sent to inmate subscribers at the BOP’s United States Penitentiary, Administrative Maximum Facility in Florence, Colorado (“ADX”). PLN sued the BOP, claiming the rejections violated PLN’s First Amendment rights, its Fifth Amendment procedural due process rights, and the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”). ADX responded by distributing the 11 publications, revising its institutional policies, and issuing a declaration from its current Warden. Based on these actions, the BOP moved for summary judgment, arguing that PLN’s claims were moot or not ripe. PLN filed a cross-motion for partial summary judgment on its First and Fifth Amendment claims. The district court granted the BOP’s motion and dismissed the case as moot. The Tenth Circuit determined factual developments during the litigation indeed mooted PLN’s claims. Therefore, the district court did not err in granting summary judgment for the BOP and dismissing this case for lack of jurisdiction. View "Prison Legal News v. Federal Bureau of Prisons" on Justia Law

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Cox Cable subscribers cannot access premium cable services unless they also rent a set-top box from Cox. A class of plaintiffs in Oklahoma City sued Cox under antitrust laws, alleging Cox had illegally tied cable services to set-top-box rentals in violation of section 1 of the Sherman Act, which prohibits illegal restraints of trade. Though a jury found that Plaintiffs had proved the necessary elements to establish a tying arrangement, the district court disagreed. In granting Cox’s Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(b) motion, the court determined that Plaintiffs had offered insufficient evidence for a jury to find that Cox’s tying arrangement "foreclosed a substantial volume of commerce in Oklahoma City to other sellers or potential sellers of set-top boxes in the market for set- top boxes." After careful consideration, the Tenth Circuit ultimately agreed with the district court and affirmed. View "Healy v. Cox Communications" on Justia Law

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In 2007, undercover producers from NBC Universal, Inc., attended and surreptitiously recorded a seminar presented by plaintiff-appellant Brokers’ Choice of America, Inc. to teach insurance agents how to sell annuities to seniors. NBC used excerpts and information from the seminar in a “Dateline NBC” episode. Brokers’ Choice and its founder Tyrone Clark (collectively, “BCA”) sued for defamation. This appeal concerned the district court’s dismissal of the amended complaint after it compared the seminar recording with the episode and concluded the Dateline program was substantially true. After review, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed because the Dateline episode was not materially false. View "Brokers' Choice of America v. NBC Universal" on Justia 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