BROADBAND BREAKFAST INSIGHT: Talk about finally letting the other shoe drop! On Monday, the Supreme Court, on a 4-3 vote (with two of the conservatives justices recusing themselves) refused to consider the old net neutrality case - the one lodged by the Obama administration, and which put extensive net neutrality regulations into effect. Those rules, affirmed by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, were arguably moot because of Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai's December 2017 re-write of these rules. But the case lingered on and on and on.
Divided court denies review in “net neutrality” cases, from SCOTUSblog:
This morning the Supreme Court issued orders from the justices’ private conference on Friday. The justices did not add any new cases to their docket for the term – they did that on Friday afternoon – nor did they call for the views of the U.S. solicitor general in any cases. But one order today in particular was significant: The justices declined to review a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upholding the Obama administration’s “net neutrality” rules, which (generally speaking) required internet service providers to treat all traffic on the internet equally.
The rules, which were issued in 2015, have since been replaced by a 2018 order by the Federal Communications Commission eliminating net neutrality, so the justices were not expected to weigh in on the merits of these cases. Instead, the real question was the fate of the D.C. Circuit’s decision upholding the rules: Would the Supreme Court allow it to stand – which would mean that it could serve as precedent for future cases – or would the justices instead invalidate the D.C. Circuit’s decision and send it back with directions to dismiss the cases as moot (a doctrine known as Munsingwear vacatur), because the net neutrality rules are no longer in effect?
Today, over a year after the petitions seeking review of the D.C. Circuit’s decision were filed, a divided Supreme Court simply declined to consider the cases, leaving the D.C. Circuit’s decision in place. The court’s newest justice, Brett Kavanaugh, was expected to recuse himself from voting on the petitions because he had participated in the cases while on the D.C. Circuit, and he did. But Chief Justice John Roberts also recused himself – presumably (although there is no way to know for sure) because he owns stock in one of the companies challenging the rules.
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