T-Mobile South, LLC v. City of Roswell

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Administrative Law
  • Date Filed: January 14, 2015
  • Case #: 13-975
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Sotomayor, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Scalia, Kennedy, Breyer, Alito, and Kagan, JJ., joined. Alito, J., filed a concurring opinion. Roberts, C. J., filed a dissenting opinion in which Ginsburg, J., joined, and in which Thomas, J., joined as to Part I. Thomas, J., filed a dissenting opinion.
  • Full Text Opinion

Under § 332(c)(7)(B)(iii) of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, a locality must state the reasoning for the denial of an application, and that reasoning may be issued in another written record so long as it is "essentially contemporaneously" with the denial.

Petitioner sought to place a cellular phone antenna within Respondent’s jurisdiction. Respondent performed an assessment and held a public hearing where Petitioner and its opponents presented information regarding the antenna. Respondent denied the request in a statement to Petitioner but did not state its reasoning; the letter merely stated that a record of the hearing would be available from the city clerk's office.

Petitioner alleged that Respondent violated the requirement in 47 U.S.C. 332(c)(7)(B)(iii) of the Telecommunications Act ("the act") because the denial must be “supported by substantial evidence contained in a written record,” and was granted summary judgment by the trial court because the denial statement did not explain Respondent’s reasoning. On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit held that the plain meaning of the act assesses whether all of Respondent’s documents explain a locality’s reasoning “in writing.”

The Supreme Court agrees that a denial statement with a separate written record explaining the decision complies with the act. The specific form that the locality’s reasoning must take is not mandated as long as it enables judicial review. However, localities must provide this record “essentially contemporaneously” with the decision.

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