Justia U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Communications Law
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This case arose from a dispute over Core's interconnection agreement with Verizon. On appeal, Core challenged the district court's grant of summary judgment to Verizon with respect to tort claims pursued by Core under Maryland law. Core also contended that the district court erred when it awarded nominal damages to Core on its related claim for breach of contract (Reconsideration Order). The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in permitting Verizon to raise the Exculpatory Clause, post-remand, in the summary judgment proceedings; the district court did not err in enforcing the Exculpatory Clause in the consolidated proceedings where the Clause was not void under principles of Maryland contract law; the district court did not err in awarding Verizon summary judgment on Core's state law tort claims for concealment and unfair competition where Core failed to establish that Verizon acted with intent to defraud or deceive; and the district court properly entered judgment on Core's breach of contract claim in the nominal sum of one dollar. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Core Communications, Inc. v. Verizon Maryland, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a complaint against the State Board, alleging that it violated his First Amendment rights by causing him to self-censor certain speech on his website wherein he offered both free and fee-based dietary advice to website visitors. The court reversed the district court's holding that plaintiff did not have standing to bring these claims. The court concluded that the district court erred in not analyzing plaintiff's claims under the First Amendment standing framework where, under that analysis, plaintiff satisfied the injury-in-fact requirement by showing that the State Board's action had an objectively reasonable chilling effect on his speech. The court also concluded that plaintiff's claims were ripe for adjudication. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded for further proceedings. View "Cooksey v. Futrell" on Justia Law

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Sprint entered into interconnection agreements with incumbent local exchange carriers (CenturyLink Plaintiffs) providing for the mutual exchange of telecommunications traffic pursuant to the provisions of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, 47 U.S.C. 151 et seq. When Sprint began to withhold payments under the agreement, CenturyLink brought a breach of contract claim in federal district court. The court held that the 1996 Act did not require a State commission to interpret and enforce an interconnection agreement (ICA) in the first instance; neither the text of the 1996 Act nor prudential considerations compelled federal deference to State commissions in the first instance; the district court judge's ownership of shares in plaintiff did not constitute a financial interest in plaintiff for purposes of 28 U.S.C. 455(b); the district court did not violate the recusal statute and therefore did not abuse his discretion in deciding that neither recusal nor vacatur was appropriate; when viewed in conjunction with the ambiguity in the ICA's coverage of voice-over Internet Protocol (VoIP) traffic over Feature Group D (FGD) trunks, the parties' course of dealing reinforced the court's conclusion that the district court did not err in entering judgment for plaintiff on its breach of contract claim; and, in the face of ambiguity, the court construed the relevant provisions of the North Carolina ICA against Sprint and in favor of plaintiff. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Central Telephone Co. v. Sprint Communications Co." on Justia Law

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Southern Walk, a homeowners association, brought this action seeking a declaratory judgment against OpenBand, the corporation with which it had contracted in 2001 for wire-based video services. Southern Walk alleged that the 2007 Exclusivity Order issued by the FCC rendered "null and void" OpenBand's exclusive rights under the 2001 contracts to provide such wire-based video services to Southern Walk homeowners. The court affirmed the judgment of the district court to the extent that it held that Southern Walk failed to allege facts supporting standing in this case, but vacated that judgment to the extent that it dismissed the case with prejudice, and remanded with instructions to dismiss without prejudice. The court affirmed the district court's denial of attorney's fees to OpenBand. View "Southern Walk at Broadlands v. Openband at Broadlands, LLC" on Justia Law

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The homeowners association sued OpenBand, a group of interlocking entities that provided cable services to Lansdowne real estate development. The homeowners alleged that OpenBand entered into a series of contracts that conferred upon Open Band the exclusive right to provide video services to the the development, in violation of an order of the FCC prohibiting such exclusivity arrangements. Because the contract prohibited competing cable providers from accessing the Lansdowne development in patent violation of the FCC's Order, the court affirmed the district court's judgment declaring the challenged provisions null and void and permanently enjoining their enforcement. View "Lansdowne on the Potomac Homeowners Assoc. v. Openband at Lansdowne, LLC" on Justia Law

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Mid-Atlantic Sports Network appealed an order of the FCC. Based on a review of its Media Bureau decision and the record, the FCC found that Time Warner provided legitimate and non-discriminatory reasons for declining to carry Mid-Atlantic Sports Network programming on an analog tier in its North Carolina cable system. On appeal, Mid-Atlantic Sports Network argued that the FCC's Order should be vacated and remanded because Time Warner engaged in unlawful discrimination. Because the FCC acted neither arbitrarily nor capriciously in rendering its order, the court concluded that the FCC acted within its discretion, and the court denied the petition for review and affirmed the FCC's Order. View "TCR Sports Broadcasting Holding v. FCC" on Justia Law

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Following the denial of its application for a conditional use permit to construct a wireless communication tower at an elementary school, T-Mobile filed suit in federal court, alleging that the denial violated the Telecommunications Act of 1996, 47 U.S.C. 332(c)(7)(B)(iii) and (iv). The district court agreed and issued an injunction directing that T-Mobile's application be granted. Because the court also concluded that the denial was not supported by substantial evidence as required by the Act, the court affirmed the judgment. View "T-Mobile Northeast LLC v. City Council of Newport News" on Justia Law

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The Board rejected the application of AT&T to build an 88-foot telecommunications tower in a residential neighborhood, a decision which AT&T later challenged in the District Court. The district court determined that substantial evidence supported the Board's decision and that the Board's ruling did not effectively prohibit wireless services under the Telecommunications Act of 1996, 47 U.S.C. 322(c)(7)(B)(i)(II) and (B)(iii). The court found that the Board's denial of AT&T's application had substantial support in the record as a whole and complied with the substantial evidence requirement of subsection (B)(iii). Based on the failure of proof by AT&T, the district court correctly granted summary judgment to the Board on AT&T's claim that the Board's denial of its application violated subsection (B)(i)(II) of the Act. View "New Cingular Wireless PCS, LLC v. The Fairfax Cty. Bd. of Supervisors" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose from a dispute between incumbent local exchange carriers that provide service in rural areas of North Carolina (RLECs) and commercial mobile radio service providers (CMRS Providers) in North Carolina. The CMRS Providers filed a complaint in the district court against the RLECs and the Commissioners of the NCUC in their official capacities, seeking review of several determinations made by the NCUC and, ultimately, the approval of portions of the interconnection agreements (ICA). The district court subsequently denied the CMRS Providers' motion for summary judgment and granted the RLECs' and the NCUC's motions for summary judgment. The district court also affirmed the NCUC's Filing of Composite Agreements (FAO) and approval order. Because the court ultimately agreed with the arguments advanced by the RLECs and the NCUC, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "New Cingular Wireless PCS, LLC, et al. v. Finley, Jr., et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed this action alleging trademark infringement under Section 32(1) of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 114(1); federal unfair competition under Section 43(a) of the Act, 15 U.S.C. 1125(a); unfair competition and deceptive trade practices under the North Carolina Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act (UDTPA), N.C.Gen. Stat. 75-1.1, thereby challenging the use of its federally-registered AGRI-NET trademark by defendants. Plaintiff appealed the district court's order granting summary judgment to defendants on its affirmative defense of laches. The court concluded that the district court erred in determining that defendants established its defense as a matter of law, and, separately, in failing to consider whether laches barred plaintiff's claim for prospective injunctive relief. Accordingly, the court vacated the judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "Ray Communications, Inc. v. Clear Channel Comm., Inc., et al." on Justia Law