Filed Date: Feb. 12, 2016
Closed Date: 2017
Clearinghouse coding complete
This suit, brought by the State of Oklahoma on January 25, 2016, challenged a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) order that set new rate caps for local (intrastate) and long-distance (interstate) inmate calling. More information on the prior administrative proceedings can be found here. The State brought this suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), alleging the FCC violated the APA's prohibition on regulations that are arbitrary and capricious or exceed statutory authority. The State sought to enjoin the FCC's Second Order issued in October 2015.
The State argued that the order exceeded the FCC's authority by doing more than just "level[ing] the playing field between payphone providers." The state contended that the Federal Communications Act ("the Act") granted the FCC authority to create "regulations that protect payphone service providers from state or local laws and unfair practices by infrastructure providers that render payphones not financially viable." The Act, however, did not authorize the FCC to promulgate regulations that "benefit prison inmates at the expense of taxpayers and phone service providers." Moreover, the State argued that, in most circumstances, the FCC was precluded from preempting state policy, and so it generally did not have authority over intrastate communications unless expressly provided in the Act. The State further argued that in setting the new rate caps, the FCC ignored recorded evidence of the cost of providing calling services to incarcerated people.
On February 10, 2016, the FCC moved to transfer the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The State did not oppose the motion to transfer, and the Tenth Circuit granted the motion the same day. In early 2016, this case was consolidated with a number of cases also pending in the D.C. Circuit: 15-1461, 15-1498, 16-1012, 16-1029, 16-1038, and 16-1046. Network Communications International Corp. intervened in the case on behalf of the FCC (date unknown based on docket).
On March 23, 2016, the court stayed the FCC's order with respect to its imposition of interim calling rate caps to intrastate calling services, but not interstate calling services. The parties then proceeded to brief the issues, and oral arguments were held on Feb. 6, 2017.
On June 13, 2017, the court ruled in favor of the State, invalidating the FCC order's proposed caps on intrastate rates on the basis that that provision exceeded the agency's statutory authority under the Act. The court further concluded that the FCC's cost calculations did not reflect reasoned decision-making, and so violated the APA's provision against arbitrary and capricious regulations. Finally, the court remanded to the FCC consideration of whether it can separate out permissible interstate call caps from the now-impermissible intrastate call caps. 866 F.3d 397.
The FCC had asserted that it issued the intrastate caps under the authority of an Act provision requiring the FCC to create a "per call compensation plan to ensure that all payphone service providers are fairly compensated for each and every completed intrastate and interstate call using their payphone." The State argued that that provision did not preclude another Act provision prohibiting the FCC from exercising jurisdiction over "charges, classifications, practices, services, facilities, or regulations for or in connection with intrastate communication service." The court agreed with the State, finding there was a presumption against the FCC's authority over specifically intrastate rates. The court drew a distinction in what the Act allowed the FCC to do: it was expressly permitted to exercise its authority to ensure interstate rates were just and reasonable, and it was to separately ensure that phone service providers were fairly compensated. But, the court held, the latter provision did not mandate that the FCC also had authority to ensure intrastate rates were just and reasonable. The court further held that, in ensuring providers were fairly compensated, the FCC was not required to consider consumers (i.e. incarcerated people) in its fairness assessment.
The case was closed.
Six years after the closing of the case, President Joe Biden signed the Martha Wright-Reed Just and Reasonable Communications Act of 2022 on January 5, 2023. The Act clarified the FCC’s authority to regulate intrastate phone calls and video calls placed from correctional facilities. The Act would allow the FCC to cap the amount telecommunications companies may charge for intrastate phone calls and video calls. The Act was predicted to be implemented sometime in the latter half of 2024.
Virginia Weeks (12/3/2017)
For PACER's information on parties and their attorneys, see: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/67214407/parties/state-of-oklahoma-ex-rel-joe-v-fcc/
Collins, Christopher James (Oklahoma)
Bond, Tonya J. (Indiana)
Chanay, Jeffrey Allyn (Kansas)
Draye, Dominic Emil (Arizona)
Fisher, Thomas M. (Indiana)
See docket on RECAP: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/67214407/state-of-oklahoma-ex-rel-joe-v-fcc/
Last updated Oct. 1, 2023, 11:45 a.m.
State / Territory: District of Columbia
Filing Date: Feb. 12, 2016
Closing Date: 2017
Case Ongoing: No
State of Oklahoma (petitioner)
Public Interest Lawyer: Yes
Filed Pro Se: No
Class Action Sought: No
Class Action Outcome: Not sought
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Prevailing Party: Plaintiff
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