Justia U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Communications Law
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The First Circuit reversed the order of the district court ordering the release of sealed archival records of certain grand jury proceedings and its judgment in favor of historian and Petitioner Jill Lepore, holding that the federal court did not have the authority to order the release of the grand jury records.As research on a book she was writing, Petitioner filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking the release of sealed archival records of grand jury proceedings from 1971 that were held to consider possible criminal charges arising out of the publication of excerpts from the "Pentagon Papers," a government study of the Vietnam War. The district court ultimately ordered the records released. The First Circuit reversed, holding that the court erred in holding that it had the authority to order the release of grand jury records based upon its finding that historical interest in the records outweighed any countervailing considerations. View "Lepore v. United States" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit held that a Maine statute requiring cable operators to grant subscribers pro rata credits or rebates for the days remaining in the billing period after the termination of cable service is not preempted by the Cable Communications Act of 1984 (Cable Act).The Cable Act preempts stat laws that regulate rates for the provision of cable service if the Federal Communications Commission determines that cable operators in that state are subject to effective competition. See 42 U.S.C. 543(a)(2), 556(c). In 2020, Maine, a state that has effective competition, adopted into law the statute at issue in this case, the Pro Rata Act. Plaintiffs filed suit requesting a declaratory judgment that the law was preempted by the Cable Act. The district court concluded that the Pro Rata Act was preempted by the Cable Act as a matter of law. The First Circuit reversed, holding that Maine's Pro Rata Act is not preempted by federal law because it is not a law governing rates for the provision of cable service and is, rather, a consumer protection law that is not preempted. View "Spectrum Northeast, LLC v. Frey" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court denying the Internet and Television Association's (NCTA) request for declaratory and permanent injunctive relief from certain provisions of a Maine state law, holding that the district court did not err.At issue was the Maine state law, "An Act to Ensure Nondiscriminatory Treatment of Public, Educational and Government Access Channels by Cable System Operators." The provisions at issue concerned both the way that cable system operators must treat channels qualifying as local public, educational, and government access channels and the obligations of those operators to make cable service available in rural areas. In this action, NCTA argued that federal law facially preempted the provisions of the Maine Act at issue. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that federal law did not facially preempt the provisions of the Maine Act. View "Internet and Television Ass'n v. Frey" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting a preliminary injunction against enforcement against a State of Maine law requiring cable operators to offer their subscribers the option of buying access to cable programs and channels individually, rather than bundled together in a channel or package of channels, holding that the district court did not err.Plaintiffs, a group of cable operators and programmers, sought a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the law, arguing that it was preempted by certain provisions of the federal Communications Act and that it violated the First Amendment. The district court granted the injunction on First Amendment grounds. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the district court correctly determined that the law triggered heightened First Amendment scrutiny because it singled out cable operators; and (2) because Maine conceded that, at this point in the litigation, it had not offered sufficient evidence in support of the law to survive any heightened level of scrutiny, the district court correctly entered a preliminary injunction delaying enforcement of the law. View "Comcast of Maine/New Hampshire v. Mills" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit denied the petition for review filed by the Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Cable (MDTC) challenging the FCC's determination that the cable system operated by Charter Communications, Inc. in Massachusetts was subject to "effective competition" in its franchise areas under the statutory Local Exchange Carrier (LEC) test, Telecommunications Act of 1996, 301(b)(3)(C), 47 U.S.C. 543(1)(1)(D), holding that the FCC did not act arbitrarily and capriciously.In 2018, Charter, a cable operator, sought a determination that it faced effective competition in its franchise areas in Massachusetts and Kauai, Hawaii because the availability of DIRECTV NOW in those franchise areas constituted effective competition under the LEC test. The FCC granted Charter's petition. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the FCC's findings were not arbitrary and that the FCC properly interpreted its regulations and acted reasonably. View "Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications & Cable v. Federal Communications Commission" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court denying two local residents' (Appellants) motion to intervene in an action brought T-Mobile Northeast LLC pursuant to the Telecommunications Act of 1996, holding that the district court neither erred nor abused its discretion in denying the motions to intervene.T-Mobile sought to operate a wireless telecommunications facility in an existing church steeple in a community in Cape Cod. When T-Mobile was unsuccessful in obtaining the required municipal permissions it sued the Town of Barnstable, two of its agencies, and several municipal officials. Appellants moved to intervene on the grounds that they were abutting landowners who had a stake in the outcome of the case. The district court summarily refused the requests for intervention. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Appellant's motions to intervene. View "T-Mobile Northeast LLC v. The Town of Barnstable" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment reversing the magistrate's order that had quashed an administrative subpoena duces tecum as to the recordings of certain telephone conversations, holding that the magistrate judge clearly erred in finding that Appellants met their burden of proving that an employer's interception of the telephone calls was intentional.When investigating whether Patient Services, inc. (PSI) had engaged in an illegal kickback scheme, the Government issued an administrative subpoena duces tecum to PSI for all recorded conversations of PSI officers and employees. This appeal concerned conversations that were recorded on the extension of Karen Middlebrooks. Middlebrooks's telephone conversations were recorded while she was working in PSI's call center on the second floor where calls were regularly recorded. At issue was whether PSI intentionally continued recording Middebrooks's calls after her transfer to the third floor, where calls were not regularly recorded, in violation of Title III of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act. The magistrate judge ruled that the recordings violated Title III. The district court reversed. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the magistrate judge clearly erred in finding that Appellants met their burden of proving that PSI's interception of calls from Middlebrooks's extension after her move to the third floor was intentional. View "In re HIPAA Subpoena" on Justia Law

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In this lawsuit alleging that Verizon Wireless violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), 47 U.S.C. 227, the First Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Verizon's motion to compel arbitration but reversed the court's grant of summary judgment in Verizon's favor, holding that the district court erred in concluding that Plaintiff's TCPA claims failed as a matter of law because her telephone number was not assigned to a cellular telephone service.In her complaint, Plaintiff claimed that Verizon's unauthorized, automated calls to her cellular telephone violated the TCPA. The district court concluded that Plaintiff's telephone number was not assigned to a cellular telephone service within the meaning of the relevant provision of the TCPA and granted summary judgment to Verizon. The First Circuit reversed, holding (1) the district court correctly denied Verizon's motion to compel arbitration; but (2) in concluding that Plaintiff's number was not assigned to a cellular telephone service the district court failed to consider the hybrid nature of Plaintiff's telephone service with Republic Wireless and erred in treating other facts as dispositive. View "Breda v. Cellco Partnership" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendants on Plaintiff’s claims brought under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, holding that there was no error in the district court’s decision to grant summary judgment to Defendants on all of Plaintiff’s claims.Plaintiff’s lawsuit stemmed from the covert installment of screenshot-capturing software on Plaintiff’s work computer, which led to his arrest and plea of nolo contendere to one count of possession of child pornography. Plaintiff brought his claims against the individuals who participated in the events leading up to and following his arrest. The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendants, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below. View "Boudreau v. Lussier" on Justia Law

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In 2011, Dr. Volkman was convicted of drug-related charges for illegally prescribing pain medication leading to the deaths of at least 14 individuals. Eil, a journalist writing a book on Volkman's case, attended portions of that public trial. In 2012, Eil submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the exhibits introduced by the government at the trial. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) provided thousands of pages of responsive documents, some of which were redacted, but withheld the medical records of Volkman's living former patients and the death-related records of his deceased former patients. Eil sued to compel disclosure of the withheld records. The court granted Eil summary judgment, ordering the DEA to release the records with certain redactions. The First Circuit reversed. The district court's balancing of the public interest in disclosure against the relevant privacy interests was flawed because the court applied the wrong standard. The release of the requested records is unlikely to advance a valid public interest, given the amount of relevant information that Eil already has access to and the substantial privacy interests implicated by the records would outweigh any public interest in disclosure. View "Eil v. United States Drug Enforcement Administration" on Justia Law