Justia U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Communications Law
In re: Application of the U.S. for Historical Cell Site Data
The Government filed three applications under section 2703 of the Stored Communications Act (SCA), 18 U.S.C. 2701-2712, seeking evidence relevant to three separate criminal investigations. At issue on appeal was whether court orders authorized by the Act to compel cell phone service providers to produce the historical cell site information of their subscribers were per se unconstitutional. The court concluded that cell site data are business records and should be analyzed under that line of Supreme Court precedent; because the magistrate judge and district court treated the data as tracking information, they applied the wrong legal standard; using the proper framework, the Act's authorization of section 2703(d) orders for historical cell site information if an application meets the lesser "specific and articulable facts" standard, rather than the Fourth Amendment probable cause standard, was not per se unconstitutional; and as long as the Government met the statutory requirements, the Act did not give the magistrate judge discretion to deny the Government's application for such an order. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded with instructions to grant the applications. View "In re: Application of the U.S. for Historical Cell Site Data" on Justia Law
Garcia v. City of Laredo, Texas, et al
Plaintiff contended that the district court's interpretation of the Stored Communications Act, 18 U.S.C. 2701, was erroneous. Plaintiff alleged that the statute applied and protected all text and data stored on her personal cell phone which defendants accessed without plaintiff's permission. The Act prohibited accessing without authorization a facility through which an electronic communications service was provided and thereby obtain access to electronic communication while it was in electronic storage. The court affirmed the judgment and held that the text messages and photos stored on plaintiff's cell phone were not in "electronic storage" as defined by the Act and were thus outside the scope of the statute. The court also held that the district court did not err in denying plaintiff's motion to recuse the district court judge. View "Garcia v. City of Laredo, Texas, et al" on Justia Law
Teltech Systems, Inc., et al v. Bryant, et al
Defendants contested a summary judgment holding that the Mississippi Caller ID Anti-Spoofing Act (ASA), Miss. Code Ann. 77-3-805, violated the Commerce Clause. Plaintiffs provide nationwide third-party spoofing services to individuals and entities. In light of the carefully-drafted language in section 227(e)(1) of the Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009 (TCIA), 47 U.S.C. 227(e)(1), and legislative history, and in spite of the presumption against preemption that attached to a state's exercise of its police power, there was an inherent federal objective in the TCIA to protect non-harmful spoofing. The ASA's proscription of non-harmful spoofing frustrated this federal objective and was, therefore, conflict preempted. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Teltech Systems, Inc., et al v. Bryant, et al" on Justia Law
Ackal, et al v. Centennial Beauregard Cellular, et al
This case involved an interlocutory appeal from an order granting plaintiffs' motion for class certification where the certified class putatively consisted of various governmental entities within the State of Louisiana whose representatives entered into contracts with defendants for cellular telephone service. Plaintiffs alleged that defendants engaged in deceptive billing practices that constituted a breach of contract and violated the state's unfair trade and consumer protection laws. The court agreed with defendants that the district court abused its discretion when it certified plaintiffs' class because, in doing so, it effectively certified an "opt in" class, which was impermissible under Rule 23. Accordingly, the court reversed and vacated, remanding for further proceedings. View "Ackal, et al v. Centennial Beauregard Cellular, et al" on Justia Law
United States v. Stevens
An FCC investigation concluded that Jerry and Deborah Stevens operated an unlicensed FM radio station from their Austin, Texas residence in violation of section 301 of the Communications Act of 1934. The FCC issued a forfeiture order in the amount of $10,000. Thereafter, the government brought an action to enforce the forfeiture in district court pursuant to 47 U.S.C. 504(a). The Stevenses moved to dismiss the enforcement action, arguing that the FCC lacked jurisdiction to regulate intrastate broadcasts and that section 301 did not apply to radio broadcasts. The district court denied the motion, determining it did not have jurisdiction to consider legal challenges to the validity of an FCC forfeiture order in a section 504(a) enforcement action. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the district court correctly determined it lacked jurisdiction to consider the Stevenses' legal defenses in the government's action to enforce the forfeiture order, as the Stevens failed to raise legal challenges to the validity of the order in a timely petition for review in the appropriate court of appeals. View "United States v. Stevens" on Justia Law
Halo Wireless, Inc. v. Alenco Communications, Inc., et al.
Local telephone companies initiated twenty separate suits against Halo before ten state public utility commissions (PUCs) and Halo filed for bankruptcy as a result of this collective action. The telephone companies requested that the bankruptcy court determine that the various PUC actions were not subject to the automatic stay provided by the Bankruptcy Code at 11 U.S.C. 362(a), because they were excepted under section 362(b)(4), or that the bankruptcy court modify the automatic stay for cause, pursuant to section 362(d)(1). The court agreed with the bankruptcy court's holding that the exception to the automatic stay in section 362(b)(4) applied to the state commission proceedings, allowing the telephone companies to proceed with their litigation in the PUCs, but holding that the state adjudicative bodies could not issue any ruling or order to liquidate the amount of any claim against Halo, and that the bodies could not take any action that affected the debtor-creditor relationship between Halo and any creditor or potential creditor. View "Halo Wireless, Inc. v. Alenco Communications, Inc., et al." on Justia Law
Stoffels, et al. v. SBC Communications, Inc., et al.
Plaintiffs brought an enforcement suit against defendants under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, 29 U.S.C. 1001-1461. Plaintiffs alleged that defendants' practice of offering reimbursements for telephone services to retirees who lived outside of defendants' service region constituted a "pension plan" under ERISA. Judge Rodriquez was assigned to the claims at issue here and to Boos v. AT&T, a case involving similar claims. After ruling that the concession at issue in Boos was not a pension plan under ERISA, Judge Rodriquez reconsidered Judge Justice's interlocutory order with respect to plaintiffs' claims in this case. He concluded that the program of retirement benefits was not a pension plan under ERISA and he then entered a final judgment. Because the court concluded that Judge Rodriquez did not abuse his discretion by revising Judge Justice's interlocutory order, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Stoffels, et al. v. SBC Communications, Inc., et al." on Justia Law
City of Arlington, Texas, et al. v. FCC, et al.
Petitioners, the City of Arlington and the City of San Antonio, sought review of a Declaratory Ruling and subsequent Order on Reconsideration that the FCC issued in response to a petition for a declaratory ruling by a trade association of wireless telephone service providers, CTIA. In the proceeding before the FCC, CTIA sought clarification of Sections 253 and 332(c)(7) of the Communications Act, 47 U.S.C. 253, 332(c)(7), regarding local review of wireless facility siting applications. Both cities claimed (1) the FCC lacked statutory authority to establish the 90- and 150-day time frames; (2) the FCC's 90- and 150-day time frames conflicted with the language of section 332(c)(7)(B)(ii) and (v); (3) the FCC's actions were arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law; and (4) the FCC violated the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 500 et seq., because its establishment of the 90- and 150-day time frames constituted a rulemaking subject to the APA's notice-and-comment requirements. Arlington also raised a procedural due process claim. The court denied Arlington's petition for review on the merits. The court dismissed San Antonio's petition for review because the court lacked jurisdiction because San Antonio did not timely file its petition for review.
Time Warner Cable Inc., et al. v. Hudson, et al.
Plaintiffs, a trade organization representing incumbent cable operators in Texas and an incumbent cable provider, appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment dismissing their claims that Senate State Bill 5 violated the First and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution or was preempted by federal law. SB 5 was aimed at reforming the cable service industry in Texas by creating a new state-level franchising system that obligated the Public Utility Commission (PUC) to grant a franchise for the requested areas if the applicant satisfied basic requirements. New entrants could obtain a single statewide franchise that avoided the expense and inconvenience of separate municipal franchise agreements across the state. Overbuilders could terminate their existing municipal franchise agreements in favor of the convenience of the statewide franchise. Incumbent cable providers, however, could not similarly opt out for the statewide franchise, until after the expiration of the municipal license. The court held that because the statute unjustifiably discriminated against a small number of incumbent cable providers in violation of the First Amendment, the court reversed.
Kevin M. Ehringer Enter., Inc. v. McData Serv. Corp.
Defendant, a technology company that sold data centers, appealed the district court's judgment on a jury verdict in favor of plaintiff, a company that purchased defendant's fiber management systems and intelligent fiber systems, in plaintiff's suit for breach of contract and fraudulent inducement. At issue was whether the district court erred in denying its motion for judgment as a matter of law. The court held that because plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence that defendant had no intent to perform under the "best efforts" provision of the contract and failed to present any evidence of damages on its other claim, the judgment of the district court was reversed and remanded to the district court to enter judgment in favor of defendant. Accordingly, the court did not reach the other issues raised by defendant on appeal.