Willamette Law Online

United States Supreme Court


ListPreviousNext


City of Arlington v. FCC

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: May 20, 2013
Case #: 11-1545
Scalia, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Thomas, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan, JJ., joined. Breyer, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment. Roberts, C. J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Kennedy and Alito, JJ., joined.
Full Text Opinion: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/12pdf/11-1545_1b7d.pdf

Administrative Law: Courts must apply the Chevron framework to an agency interpretation of a statutory ambiguity that concerns the scope of the agency’s statutory authority.

The Communications Act of 1934, as amended, requires state or local governments to act on siting applications for wireless facilities “within a reasonable period of time.”  47 U.S.C. 332(c)(7)(B)(ii).  Respondent issued a Declaratory Ruling concluding that the phrase “reasonable period of time” is presumptively (but rebuttably) 90 days to process the collocation application and 150 days to process all other applications. Petitioner sought review of Respondent's Declaratory Ruling.

Relying on Circuit precedent, the lower court held that Chevron U. S. A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U. S. 837, applied to the threshold question whether Respondent possessed statutory authority to adopt the 90- and 150-day time frames. The court found Respondent's interpretation to be a permissible construction of the statute despite the argument that the saving clause, §332(c)(7)(A), and the judicial review provision, §337(c)(7)(B)(v), together displayed a congressional intent to withhold from Respondent authority to interpret the limitations in §332(c)(7)(B). 

The Supreme Court granted Certiorari limited to whether a court should apply Chevron to an agency’s determination of its own jurisdiction.  The Supreme Court affirmed and held that Courts must apply the Chevron framework to an agency interpretation of a statutory ambiguity that concerns the scope of the agency’s statutory authority.