The U. S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a challenge brought by several municipalities to the FCC’s so-called shot clock, which set time periods of 90 days and 150 days for municipalities to act on collocations and new sites, respectively.
The “Petition for a Writ of Certiorari,” filed by the cities of Los Angeles, San Antonio and Arlington, Texas; Los Angeles County, San Diego County and the Texas Coalition of Cities for Utility Issues, questions whether or not a federal agency can legally determine its own statutory jurisdiction.
Two issues were raised by the municipalities, but the court agreed to hear arguments on only to one of them: whether the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals was correct in deferring to the agency’s interpretation of its own jurisdiction. The FCC had determined in the Order adopting the shot clock that it had the authority to interpret the statutory language in Section 332(c)(7) of the Communications Act to permit inclusion of a shot clock. The Supreme Court declined to grant cert and therefore left undisturbed the FCC’s general authority under the Communications Act to adopt the shot clock, according to William Sill, partner, Wilkinson, Barker Knauer.
“Previously the FCC had found that it had the general authority under the Communications Act [to create the shot clock] and the lower court upheld it,” Sill told AGL Bulletin. “It would appear that there is an independent ground under which the shot clock could be maintained that does not appear to be in play in the court’s decision.”
The court may not hear the case until January of next year, according to Joseph Van Eaton, attorney, Best Best & Krieger.
“But the issue the Supreme Court has decided to address is not just a telecommunications issue,” Van Eaton said in a press release. “The question of how courts should decide whether an agency can define the scope of its own jurisdiction arises in many cases, in many different areas of the law. It is a basic, undecided question of administrative law.”