U.S. Supreme Court issues rulings in three cases

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) issued opinions in three cases argued during the 2020-2021 term on April 1. 

Florida v. Georgia

The case came to the court under its original jurisdiction over disputes between states and concerned the apportionment of waters of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin. In 2013, Florida filed a complaint against Georgia, alleging that Georgia’s water use was inequitable. Florida v. Georgia was first argued before SCOTUS on Jan. 8, 2018, during the October 2017 term. On June 27, 2018, the court sent the case back to the lower court for reconsideration in a 5-4 decision written by Justice Stephen Breyer.

The case’s second argument took place this term on Feb. 22, 2021. In a unanimous ruling, the court overruled Florida’s exceptions to the Special Master’s Report and dismissed the case. Justice Amy Coney Barrett delivered the majority opinion of the court.

FCC v. Prometheus Radio Project (consolidated with National Association of Broadcasters v. Prometheus Radio Project)

These consolidated cases originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit and were argued before SCOTUS on Jan. 19, 2021. The cases involve whether the FCC adequately considered how its rule changes would affect broadcast media firms owned by women or minorities, and asked SCOTUS whether the 3rd Circuit was right to block some of the FCC’s choices on those grounds.

In a 9-0 decision, the court reversed the 3rd Circuit’s judgment, holding that the FCC’s rule changes were not arbitrary or capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act. Justice Brett Kavanaugh delivered the majority opinion of the court. Justice Clarence Thomas filed a concurring opinion.

Facebook v. Duguid

This case originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit and concerned the definition of an automated telephone dialing system (ATDS) under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). The case was argued before SCOTUS on Dec. 8, 2020.

Social media website Facebook allows users to receive text message alerts when their accounts are accessed from unknown devices or browsers. Noah Duguid did not have a Facebook account and never consented to receive those alerts. He sued Facebook after receiving multiple text messages and attempting to opt-out. Duguid claimed Facebook violated the TCPA’s ban on calling or sending text messages to cell phones using an ATDS. The U.S. district court dismissed the lawsuit. On appeal, the 9th Circuit reversed the district court’s ruling.

In a unanimous opinion, SCOTUS reversed the 9th Circuit’s ruling and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that a device must be able to store or produce a telephone number using a random or sequential number generator in order to be considered an automated telephone dialing system under the TCPA. Justice Sonia Sotomayor delivered the majority opinion of the court. Justice Samuel Alito filed a concurring opinion.

To date, the court has issued opinions in 25 cases this term. Five cases were decided without argument. 

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Kate Carsella

Kate Carsella is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.