T-Mobile South, LLC v. City of Roswell

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: Administrative Law
  • Date Filed: May 5, 2014
  • Case #: 13-975
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Court Below: 731 F.3d 1213 (11th Cir. 2013)
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether, according to the Telecommunications Act of 1996, a government may deny a telecommunication company's request "in writing" by sending a statement that contains no written explanation of its reasoning, or if there must be a written record for its reasoning and a written statement for the denial to qualify as being "in writing."

Petitioner sought to place a cellular phone antenna within Respondent’s city limits. Respondent conducted a planning assessment, and the mayor and city council held a public hearing where Petitioner and opposition made their arguments. Acting unanimously for Respondent, Petitioner’s request was officially denied, and it was sent an official letter of denial that cited the minutes of the public hearing in its reasoning. Petitioner sued under the Telecommunications Act (“TCA”), and the trial court granted Petitioner its motion for summary judgment. It found that Respondent’s letter failed to meet the TCA requirement at 47 U.S.C. 332(c)(7)(B)(iii), that a state or local government may only deny a telecommunication company request "in writing,” because both the statement of decision and the record had to be written documents.

Respondent appealed to the Eleventh Circuit, which reversed and remanded the case for trial. The Eleventh Circuit held that the trial court applied the incorrect definition of “in writing” by applying a test not in the TCA that required both a written statement of denial and a written record must have existed to qualify as a denial “in writing.” Instead, the Eleventh Circuit held that a plain meaning of the TCA indicated that all of the documents together formed a statement “in writing” so long as the information used and reasoning cited in the letter were in accessible forms to the Petitioner. Petitioner sought a writ of certiorari from the Supreme Court, which granted certiorari to resolve a circuit split on this question. Petitioner asks the Court to side with the majority of federal court that require "in writing” to mean both the statement of decision and the record had to be written documents.

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