Update: FCC Declines Appeal of Sixth Circuit Loss in Municipal Broadband Preemption Case

FCCThe Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced on August 29 that it will not be appealing its loss in the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Tennessee v. FCC. The August 10 decision held that FCC lacked the authority under Telecommunications Act § 706 to preempt state limits on municipalities’ offering of broadband services. Washington Legal Foundation supported the Petitioners in the case with an amicus brief on which we represented former FCC Commissioner Harold Furchtgott-Roth.

FCC argued that § 706 granted the Commission broad public-interest authority to dictate how states regulated the activities of their own local towns and cities. Tennessee and North Carolina both permit municipalities to offer government-owned broadband services, but they limit the offering of those services to the municipalities’ geographical borders. The Commission acknowledged it could not prohibit states from banning municipal broadband, but asserted that once states allowed such services, § 706 empowered FCC to preempt state policies that stood “as a barrier to infrastructure investment and broadband deployment.”

As former Commissioner Furchtgott-Roth and his Hudson Institute colleague Arielle Roth explained in an August 18 WLF Legal Pulse post, “The Sixth Circuit correctly rejected FCC’s basis for preempting the North Carolina and Tennessee statutes, stating that nowhere in § 706 did Congress indicate an intent to preempt internal state laws governing broadband deployment.”

The extent of FCC’s overreach was made manifest last November when the Department of Justice declined to sign FCC’s Sixth Circuit brief. Experts noted at the time that DOJ’s absence conveyed a not-so-subtle message to the Sixth Circuit. The Sixth Circuit sent an even clearer message to FCC with its August 10 decision, one that the Commission finally appears to have received.

Crusade or Charade?: What’s Really Motivating Efforts to Mandate GMO-Labeling?

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Because “public-interest” groups cloak themselves with the feel-good mantle of protecting consumers, the environment, animals, etc., the motives of such groups rarely get questioned. But several recent developments show that all too often, activists put their own self-interest before the public’s interest.

Consider, for example, environmental groups’ opposition to a Washington state ballot measure going before voters this fall. Initiative 732 pursues a major environmentalist goal—carbon-emissions reduction—by imposing an excise tax. Revenues from the carbon tax would in turn fund sales, manufacturing, and low-income-household tax cuts. In other words, it’s revenue neutral, and that doesn’t sit well with green activists who see climate change as an effective proxy for a broader ideological goal: expanding government. Continue reading

Sixth Circuit Protects Federalism from an Overreaching Federal Communications Commission

harold_frRothGuest Commentary

By Arielle Roth and Harold Furchtgott-Roth, The Hudson Institute*

With the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit granting it unprecedented authority over broadband companies in its June 14, 2016 network neutrality ruling, the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) regulatory authority over the internet is on the rise. However, a ruling last week by the Sixth Circuit, which overturned an FCC attempt to interfere with the internal affairs of two states’ broadband markets, reminded the Commission that there are limits to its power under the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Consistent with an amicus brief filed in the case by Washington Legal Foundation (and on behalf of one of the authors of this post), the court held that FCC that may not act in contravention of federalism principles and the rule of law. Continue reading

Game, Set, Match: DC Circuit Makes Final Ruling in “Tennis Channel v. FCC”

tenniscourtBy John English, Judge K.K. Legett Fellow at Washington Legal Foundation and a rising third-year student at Texas Tech University School of Law.

The United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit has likely brought an end to a seven-year-long dispute involving Tennis Channel, Inc., Comcast, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).  The July 5, 2016 decision in Tennis Channel, Inc. v. Federal Communications Commission is the DC Circuit’s second consideration of the petitioner’s claim that Comcast discriminated against Tennis Channel in favor of affiliated networks when determining channel offerings to its cable customers. Continue reading

Federal Courts Must Enforce Limits on President’s Appointment Powers

CFPBNo one any longer contests that President Obama acted in excess of his constitutional powers when, on January 4, 2012—a day on which the Senate was not in recess—he purported to grant a recess appointment to Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).  Yet, in a troubling decision issued last week, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia indicated that it was of no moment that for a period of 18 months Cordray, although no more than a private citizen, issued dozens of significant decisions in the name of CFPB.  Judge Ellen Huvelle ruled in State National Bank of Big Springs v. Lew that Cordray, after finally receiving Senate confirmation, could simply wave a magic wand and retroactively approve all of his unauthorized acts.  That decision eviscerates the Constitution’s explicit limitations on the President’s appointment powers and encourages future Presidents to disregard those limitations. Continue reading

October Term 2015 Administrative-Law Rulings Heighten Significance of Next Supreme Court Appointment

 

New Faulk photoFeatured Expert Column − Toxic Tort and Environmental Litigation

Richard O. Faulk, Esq., a Partner with Alexander Dubose Jefferson & Townsend LLP serving clients in Texas and Washington DC.

*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do necessarily represent or reflect the views of Alexander Dubose Jefferson & Townsend LLP.

Since the United States Supreme Court’s Skidmore v. Swift & Co., and Bowles v. Seminole Rock & Sand Co. rulings, the role of judicial deference in administrative law has expanded exponentially.  For example, agencies now receive deference, under the Court’s Auer v. Robins decision, even if their own drafting creates the very vagaries and ambiguities that require interpretation.  Courts also defer to agencies’ interpretations of statutes they are charged to administer (Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. NRDC) and to scientific conclusions reached in the course of the regulatory process (Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. v. NRDC).  By indulging these perspectives, the courts necessarily surrender their constitutional authority to “say what the law is,”1 and contribute to an arrogation of administrative power that threatens not only our constitutional separation of powers, but also their balance.2

Regulatory agencies have grown into what some call a “fourth branch” of our federal government.3 The threat posed by this de facto branch, also known as the “Administrative State”4 or, more colorfully, our “Junior Varsity Congress,”5 has attracted the growing attention of a number of Supreme Court justices.  Continue reading

Data-Breach Class Actions Feel the Effects of “Spokeo v. Robins”

supreme courtBy Jeryn Crabb, Judge K.K. Legett Fellow at Washington Legal Foundation and a rising third-year student at Texas Tech University School of Law

With Spokeo v. Robins the US Supreme Court clarified the requirements necessary for plaintiffs to establish standing in federal court.  Federal district courts are only beginning to explore those parameters, but the early applications are generally encouraging in one key area: data-breach class-action litigation.

In Spokeo, Mr. Robins alleged that Spokeo, a “people search engine,” violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act by inaccurately reporting that he was married, employed, and in good financial standing.  The Court held that a plaintiff bringing suit under a federal law that defines a statutory violation as harm must allege the existence of a concrete and particularized injury in order to have standing to sue. Continue reading