University of Michigan Law School
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Case Name State of Oklahoma v. FCC PC-DC-0030
Docket / Court CC Docket No. 16-1057 ( No Court )
State/Territory District of Columbia
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Case Summary
This suit, brought by the State of Oklahoma on Feb. 12, 2016, challenges 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 ... read more >
This suit, brought by the State of Oklahoma on Feb. 12, 2016, challenges 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 pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), alleging the FCC violated the APA's prohibition of arbitrary and capricious regulations and regulations that exceed statutory authority. The State sought to enjoin the FCC's Second Order issued in Oct. 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 so doing, the FCC ignored recorded evidence of the cost of providing inmate calling services.

This case was consolidated with the following cases also pending in the Circuit Court: 15-1461, 15-1498, 16-1012, 16-1029, 16-1038, and 16-1046 between Jan. and Feb. 2016. 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, the court ruled in favor 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 if it can separate out permissible interstate call caps from the now-impermissible intrastate call caps. 866 F.3d 397.

Specifically, the FCC asserted that it issued 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 does 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 is 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 argued, the latter provision did not mandate that the FCC had authority to ensure intrastate rates were just and reasonable too. The court further found that in ensuring providers were fairly compensated, the FCC was not required to consider consumers (i.e. inmates) in its fairness assessment. 866 F.3d 397.

The case is now closed.

Virginia Weeks - 12/03/2017

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Affected Gender
Plaintiff Type
State Plaintiff
Special Case Type
Appellate Court is initial court
Type of Facility
Causes of Action Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq.
Defendant(s) Federal Communications Commission
Plaintiff Description State of Oklahoma (petitioner)
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Case Closing Year 2017
Case Ongoing No
Case Listing PC-DC-0028 : In the Matter of Rates for Interstate Inmate Calling Services / Wright Petition II (No Court)
PC-DC-0027 : In the Matter of Rates for Interstate Inmate Calling Services / Wright Petition I (No Court)
PC-DC-0019 : Wright v. Corrections Corporation of America (D.D.C.)
PC-WA-0015 : Judd v. AT&T (State Court)
PC-DC-0031 : Securus Technologies v. FCC (No Court)
Additional Resources
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  Civil Rights Injunctions Over Time: A Case Study of Jail and Prison Court Orders
N.Y.U. Law Review
Date: May 2006
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University Faculty)
Citation: 81 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 550 (2006)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

  Judicial Policy Making and the Modern State: How the Courts Reformed America's Prisons
Date: Jan. 1, 1998
By: Malcolm M. Feeley & Edward Rubin (UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law & Vanderbilt School of Law Faculty Faculty)
Citation: (1998)
[ Detail ]

16­-1057 (U.S. Court of Appeals)
PC-DC-0030-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/21/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Petition for Review [Ct. of App. ECF# 1598874]
PC-DC-0030-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/12/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
On Petitions for Review of an Order of the Federal Communications Commission [Ct. of App. ECF# 1687467 ]
PC-DC-0030-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/04/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bond, Tonya J. (Indiana)
Chanay, Jeffrey Allyn (Kansas)
Collins, Christopher  James (Oklahoma)
PC-DC-0030-0001 | PC-DC-0030-9000
Draye, Dominic Emil (Arizona)
Fisher, Thomas M. (Indiana)
Haines, Jared (Oklahoma)
PC-DC-0030-0001 | PC-DC-0030-9000
Hirth, John Andrew (Missouri)
Honycutt, Danny (Oklahoma)
Lennington, Daniel P (Wisconsin)
Mansinghani, Mithun (Oklahoma)
Palmer, Karla L.
Pruitt, E. Scott (Oklahoma)
Rouse, Joanne Therese (Indiana)
Rudofsky, Lee (Arkansas)
Sanders, David Glen (Louisiana)
Sauer, Dean John (Missouri)
Tseytlin, Misha (Wisconsin)
VanDyke, Lawrence (Nevada)
Wilton, Patricia Hill (Louisiana)
Wyrick, Patrick (Oklahoma)
Defendant's Lawyers Gossett, David Morris
Haar, Daniel Edward
Lewis, Jacob M. (District of Columbia)
Nicholson, Robert B.
Welch, Richard Kiser
Wimberly, Mary Helen (District of Columbia)
Other Lawyers Golden, Deborah Maxine (District of Columbia)
Racine, Karl A. (Maryland)
Sellers, Joseph Marc (District of Columbia)
Tweeten, Andrew Henry (Minnesota)

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