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

Articles Posted in Communications Law
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The case involves Scott Rosenthal, a Massachusetts resident, who filed a class action lawsuit against Bloomingdales.com, LLC, an Ohio-based company with its principal place of business in New York. Rosenthal alleged that Bloomingdales unlawfully intercepted and used information about his activity on its website. The company had commissioned third-party vendors to embed JavaScript computer code on its website, which was deployed onto Rosenthal's internet browser while he visited the site. This code intercepted, recorded, and mapped his electronic communications with the website. Rosenthal claimed that this violated the Massachusetts Wiretapping Act and the Massachusetts Invasion of Privacy Statute.The United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts dismissed Rosenthal's complaint for lack of specific personal jurisdiction over Bloomingdales. The court concluded that the defendant's conduct, which formed the basis of Rosenthal's claims, occurred outside of Massachusetts. The court also determined that Bloomingdales had not initiated contact with Massachusetts. Because the complaint failed to identify a 'demonstrable nexus' between Rosenthal's claims and Bloomingdale's contacts with Massachusetts, the court found no basis for specific jurisdiction over Bloomingdales.The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal. The court found that Rosenthal failed to provide "affirmative proof" that Bloomingdales purposefully deployed the JavaScript code to intentionally target users in Massachusetts. The court concluded that Rosenthal had not sufficiently established that Bloomingdales purposefully availed itself of what Massachusetts has to offer, thus failing to meet the requirements for specific jurisdiction. View "Rosenthal v. Bloomingdales.com, LLC" on Justia Law

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The defendant, Brian Orlandella, was convicted by a jury of sexual exploitation of a minor and transfer of obscene material to a minor. The charges arose from Orlandella's interactions with a minor via the Kik messenger app. On appeal, Orlandella raised five arguments, all of which were rejected by the court.Orlandella argued that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction, but the court held that a reasonable jury could have found beyond a reasonable doubt that he persuaded the minor to produce explicit videos and pictures. Orlandella also contended that the court erred by not giving the jury a specific unanimity instruction on Count One, but the court held that a general unanimity instruction was sufficient.Furthermore, Orlandella claimed that the government violated its obligations to disclose evidence that could have helped his defense. However, the court found that the evidence in question was not material and its suppression did not undermine confidence in the outcome of the trial. Orlandella also argued that the court erred by failing to give the jury a missing witness instruction regarding the government's failure to call the minor as a witness. The court found that the minor was not peculiarly available to the government and that Orlandella was not prejudiced by her absence. Finally, Orlandella contended that his incriminating statements were taken in violation of his Miranda rights. The court held that even if there was a Miranda violation, it was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt given the overwhelming evidence against Orlandella. Consequently, his convictions were affirmed. View "United States v. Orlandella" on Justia Law

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In the case before the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, the defendant, Randall Crater, was convicted of wire fraud, unlawful monetary transactions, and operating an unlicensed money transmitting business based on his involvement in a cryptocurrency scheme. The trial lasted eight days and was based on Crater's management of My Big Coin (MBC), a cryptocurrency company that allegedly misrepresented itself as a gold-backed digital currency and claimed a partnership with MasterCard. The defendant appealed two of the district court's rulings.Firstly, Crater argued that the district court violated his Sixth Amendment right to compulsory process by refusing to enforce subpoenas against three federal agency witnesses due to Crater's non-compliance with the agencies' Touhy regulations. Secondly, Crater contended that the district court did not perform its gatekeeping duty by admitting testimony from the government's cryptocurrency expert without holding a Daubert hearing.However, the Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's decision, stating that Crater's arguments could not be reconciled with controlling precedent or the record in the case. The court found that Crater's failure to show how the excluded testimony of the federal agents would have been both material and favorable to his defense invalidated his Sixth Amendment claim. Furthermore, the court held that Crater's objections to the expert witness's qualifications and methodology were insufficient to necessitate a Daubert hearing. View "US v. Crater" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting Defendants' motion to dismiss this action for defamation, false light invasion of privacy, and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, holding that Plaintiffs did not plausibly allege defamation under principles of the First Amendment and that there was otherwise no error.Dana Cheng and Epoch Group sued Dan Neumann and Maine People's Alliance in Maine federal court alleging defamation based on statements in an article written by Neumann and published by Maine People's Alliance entitled "Maine GOP hosts speaker present at Jan. 6 Capitol assault." The district court granted Defendants' motion to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) and New York's anti-SLAPP statute. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the challenged statements were non-actionable opinions and that Plaintiffs' remaining challenges were waived. View "Cheng v. Neumann" on Justia 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