Supreme Court PDR Decision Could Upend Regulatory Ground Rules

By on March 26, 2019

Executive Summary of an article written by
Becca Wahlquist, Snell & Wilmer

In PDR Network, LLC v. Carlton & Harris Chiropractic, Inc., the U.S. Supreme Court is considering the question of whether district courts need to adhere to statutory interpretations made by federal agencies with national reach.

A West Virginia district court dismissed a Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) class action after refusing to defer to a 2006 order of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The Fourth Circuit reversed, holding under the Hobbs Act that the court should have been required to defer to the FCC ruling, and could not itself interpret the plain language of the statute.

Some argue that national uniformity is most important, so that businesses know what regulations mean from looking at an agency order and know how to comply with the law. Some argue that unfair or wrong agency orders should not be permitted to override a defendant’s ability to defend itself in a litigation brought long after the time to appeal a relevant agency’s order has ended.

It is difficult to predict how the Supreme Court will rule, but it is certain that what it does in PDR Network will be significant and should address the question about who interprets federal law. Businesses will need to watch closely for this opinion. It could determine not only how TCPA litigations progress, but how agency orders in general are treated in the future.

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