OUT LIKE A LAMB: TCPA Case that Lead to Supreme Court Review of Hobbs Act Jurisdictional Bar Ends With a Final Whimper
In litigation, the longest distance between two points is a trip to the Supreme Court. Especially where a huge separation of powers battle is brewing.
Many of you will remember the bruhaha created by the Supreme Court’s review in PDR Resources. At issue, in theory, was whether district courts needed to defer to FCC interpretations of the TCPA. At issue, really, was how much power independent agencies like the FCC could wield as compared to Article III judges on issues of legal interpretation.
At the time the conservative wing of the Supreme Court had not obtained the supermajority it now enjoys. So the result of the ruling was a split decision (and a bit of a cop out.) The Supremes determined they could not really evaluate whether the FCC ruling was binding or not because: i) it was unclear whether the ruling was interpretive or legislative; and ii) it was unclear whether the Defendant had an opportunity to challenge the ruling before the Commission.
On remand to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, the appellate court issued a jarring ruling that arguably converted 80% of the FCC’s TCPA rulings into dicta. TCPAWorld is still sifting through the rubble of that one….
But now, on remand all the way back to the district court, we have a final determination on the case that found its way to the Supreme Court–and its a measly dismissal at the pleadings stage. The Court found that the ruling at issue was interpretive–as the Fourth Circuit had determined–and was entitled to no deference since the language of the TCPA’s junk fax provisions was already clear.
Ironically, this is the EXACT SAME RULING the district court had reached back in September of 2016 (!) before the trip to the Supreme Court.
So five and a half years later the Defendant finally earned its dismissal of the junk fax case. Of course the ultimate issue of Hobbs Act deference still remains unanswered since the Supreme Court dodged it…