In PDR Network, LLC v. Carlton & Harris Chiropractic Inc., the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 9-0 that the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals needed to answer several questions before it could decide whether the Hobbs Act requires district courts to uphold agency interpretations of certain laws.
Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the majority opinion, which said that the 4th Circuit must first decide whether a 2006 Federal Communications Commission (FCC) interpretation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (Telephone Act) was a legislative rule, which carries the force of law, or an interpretive rule, which is non-binding. The opinion also directed the 4th Circuit to decide whether PDR Network had the chance to seek judicial review of the 2006 order before enforcement.
Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a concurring opinion arguing that this case shows why the court should reconsider precedents like Chevron v. NRDC (1984), which held that courts should defer to reasonable agency interpretations of ambiguous laws when Congress gives the agency the authority to administer those laws. Justice Kavanaugh wrote a separate concurring opinion arguing that the court was right to vacate the 4th Circuit’s judgment but that it should have also ruled that the Hobbs Act allows district courts to consider the validity of agency interpretations of law.
The case involved an incident from 2013. PDR Network, LLC sent a fax to Carlton & Harris, a West Virginia chiropractor, offering the company a free copy of the Physicians Desk Reference. Carlton & Harris sued PDR in federal court under the Telephone Act, which prohibits companies from using fax machines to send unsolicited advertisements. At issue is the definition of an unsolicited advertisement, which the FCC defined under the Telephone Act in a 2006 order.