Justia Government Contracts Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Communications Law
by
Broadband Voice, LLC, d/b/a Fuse.Cloud, LLC (Fuse), appealed a Mississippi circuit court's dismissal of its complaint with prejudice. Fuse entered into four contracts with Jefferson County for telephone and internet installation and services. In January 2020, an entirely new board of supervisors took office. The County notified Fuse on November 3, 2020, that it would be terminating the contracts entered into by the 2019 board of supervisors. The termination was to take effect on November 16, 2020. Fuse notified the new board of supervisors that an early-termination fee of $116,984.02 would be imposed if the County terminated the contracts. Fuse disconnected the County’s service before the November 16, 2020 termination date, and sued when the County refused to pay the fee. On August 23, 2021, the circuit court dismissed Fuse’s complaint with prejudice, finding that there were no triable issues. Fuse argued on appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court that it was entitled to $116,984.02 in early-termination fees from the four contracts. Finding that the early-termination-fee provision was negotiated by the prior board, and that prior board could not limit the ability of a subsequent board to terminate that provision or any other provision of the four contracts, the Supreme Court held the early-termination fee was not enforceable. The circuit court's dismissal was affirmed. View "Broadband Voice, LLC d/b/a Fuse.Cloud, LLC v. Jefferson County, Mississippi" on Justia Law

by
Broadband Voice, LLC, d/b/a Fuse.Cloud, LLC (Fuse), appealed a circuit court's dismissal of its complaint with prejudice. Fuse argued that it was entitled to $116,984.02 in early-termination fees from the four contracts it had with Jefferson County (the County). Fuse also argued that the trial court erred, inter alia, by denying its motion for judgment on the pleadings. Because the early-termination provision in Fuse’s contract with the County was unenforceable, the Mississippi Supreme Court found trial court did not err by denying Fuse’s motion for judgment on the pleadings or by dismissing Fuse’s complaint with prejudice. View "Broadband Voice, LLC v. Jefferson County, Mississippi" on Justia Law

by
The Mississippi Department of Information Technology Services (ITS) issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for telecommunications services. After vendors responded, ITS selected the proposal submitted by Telepak Networks, Inc., d/b/a C Spire (C Spire) for a statewide voice and data network. AT&T Corp. (AT&T) protested the award, arguing that ITS’s award of the contract to C Spire was erroneous because C Spire’s proposal did not match the specifications set forth in the RFP. ITS denied AT&T’s challenge, and it appealed. The Chancery Court of the First Judicial District of Hinds County affirmed, finding that ITS’s award of the contract to C Spire was not arbitrary and capricious or unsupported by substantial evidence. AT&T appealed. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court held that the ITS decision that C Spire’s proposal matched the RFP’s specifications was supported by substantial evidence and was not arbitrary and capricious. Therefore, we affirm. View "AT&T Corp. v. Mississippi Department of Information Technology Services" on Justia Law

by
New York requires cable operators to set aside channels for public access. Those channels are operated by the cable operator unless the local government chooses to operate the channels or designates a private entity as the operator. New York City designated a private nonprofit corporation, MNN, to operate public access channels on Time Warner’s Manhattan cable system. Respondents produced a film critical of MNN. MNN televised the film. MNN later suspended Respondents from all MNN services and facilities. They sued, claiming that MNN violated their First Amendment free-speech rights. The Second Circuit partially reversed the dismissal of the suit, concluding that MNN was subject to First Amendment constraints.The Supreme Court reversed in part and remanded. MNN is not a state actor subject to the First Amendment. A private entity may qualify as a state actor when the entity exercises “powers traditionally exclusively reserved to the State” but “very few” functions fall into that category. Operation of public access channels on a cable system has not traditionally and exclusively been performed by government. Providing some kind of forum for speech is not an activity that only governmental entities have traditionally performed and does not automatically transform a private entity into a state actor. The City’s designation of MNN as the operator is analogous to a government license, a government contract, or a government-granted monopoly, none of which converts a private entity into a state actor unless the private entity is performing a traditional, exclusive public function. Extensive regulation does not automatically convert a private entity's action into that of the state. The City does not own, lease, or possess any property interest in the public access channels. View "Manhattan Community Access Corp. v. Halleck" on Justia Law

by
Area 51 used Alameda city property for events it planned for third-party companies. PM assisted the city with managing the license arrangements. Due to problems connected with Area 51 events, the city ceased doing business with it. Area 51 had committed to third-party entities based on PM’s previous confirmation of the city’s willingness to license space. Area 51 sued. Defendants (city, PM, and individuals) filed a demurrer and a motion to strike under Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16, the anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) statute. The court denied that motion and granted the demurrer. The court of appeal reversed in part. While the thrust of the claims against the city is breach of contract, the individual defendants were not contracting parties; the sole basis for asserting liability against them is what they did on behalf of the city. That conduct is expressive in nature (emails confirming dates, and announcing termination of the leasing relationship), which qualify as “written or oral statement[s] . . . made in connection with an issue under consideration . . . by a[n] . . . executive . . . body,” under the anti-SLAPP law. Area 51 could not show a probability of prevailing on the merits. The case was remanded for consideration of an award of attorneys’ fees and costs. View "Area 51 Productions, Inc. v. City of Alameda" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit on behalf of himself and a putative class, alleging claims under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), 42 U.S.C. 227(b)(1)(A)(iii), that Campbell-Ewald instructed or allowed a third-party vendor to send unsolicited text messages on behalf of the Navy, with whom Campbell-Ewald had a marketing contract. The district court granted summary judgment to Campbell-Ewald under the doctrine of derivative sovereign immunity. The court rejected Campbell-Ewald's claim that the personal and putative class claims were mooted by petitioner's refusal to accept the settlement offer; Campbell-Ewald's constitutional claims were unavailing where the company relied upon a flawed application of First Amendment principles; the TCPA imposes vicarious liability where an agency relationship, as defined by federal common law, is established between the defendant and a third-party caller; and the application of the doctrine of derivative sovereign immunity is inapplicable in this case. Because Campbell-Ewald failed to demonstrate that it was entitled to judgment as a matter of law, the court vacated and remanded for further proceedings. View "Gomez v. Campbell-Ewald Co." on Justia Law

by
The Educational Rate Program, a subsidy program authorized by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, is implemented by the FCC, which established USAC, a private non-profit corporation, to administer the Program. USAC provides subsidies to eligible school districts for the cost of telecommunication services. FCC regulations require that providers offer schools the “lowest corresponding price” (LCP) for their services: the “lowest price that a service provider charges to non-residential customers who are similarly situated to a particular school, library, or library consortium for similar services.” Heath operates a business that audits telecommunications bills and was retained by Wisconsin school districts. Heath found that certain schools paid much higher rates than others for the same services. As a result, many districts did not receive the benefit of LCP and the government paid subsidies greater than they should have been. Heath informed Wisconsin Bell of the discrepancy, but it refused to provide the more favorable pricing. Heath also learned of an even lower price charged to the Wisconsin Department of Administration (DOA). Heath filed a qui tam lawsuit. The government declined to intervene. The district court dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, finding that the public disclosure bar applied and that Heath was not saved by the original source exception, because the DOA pricing was on its website. The Seventh Circuit reversed, stating that the claim was not based on the DOA website information and that Heath was not an opportunist plaintiff who did not contribute significant information. View "Heath v. WI Bell, Inc." on Justia Law

by
In 2008, the legislature enacted legislation to establish the Idaho Education Network (IEN), which was to be a high-bandwidth telecommunications distribution system for distance learning in every public school in the state. Syringa Networks, LLC (Syringa), an Idaho telecommunications company, entered into a “teaming agreement” with ENA Services, LLC (ENA). Pursuant to their agreement, ENA submitted a proposal in response to a request-for-proposals (RFP) with the Department of Administration, although the cover letter stated that both ENA and Syringa were responding jointly to the proposal. Qwest Communications Company, LLC, and Verizon Business Network Services, Inc., also submitted responsive proposals. The proposals were then scored based upon specific criteria; the ENA and Qwest proposals received the highest scores. The Department issued a letter of intent to award contracts to Qwest and ENA. One month later, it issued amendments to the two purchase orders to alter the scope of work that each would perform. Qwest became "the general contractor for all IEN technical network services" (providing the “backbone”) and ENA became "the Service Provider." The effect of these amendments was to make Qwest the exclusive provider of the backbone, which was what Syringa intended to provide as a subcontractor of ENA. Syringa filed this lawsuit against the Department, its director, the chief technology officer, ENA and Qwest. The district court ultimately dismissed Syringa’s lawsuit against all of the Defendants on their respective motions for summary judgment. Syringa then appealed the grants of summary judgment, and the State Defendants cross-appealed the refusal to award them attorney fees. Upon review, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment dismissing all counts of the complaint except count three seeking to set aside the State's contract with Qwest on the ground that it was awarded in violation of the applicable statutes. Furthermore, the Court reversed Qwest’s award of attorney fees against Syringa. We remand to the trial court the determination of whether any of the State Defendants were entitled to an award of attorney fees against Syringa for proceedings in the district court. The Court awarded costs and attorney fees on appeal to ENA. Because the State Defendants and Syringa both prevailed only in part on appeal, the Court did not award them either costs or attorney fees on appeal.View "Syringa Networks v. Idaho Dept of Admin" on Justia Law

by
Claimant appealed from a judgment of the district court ordering the forfeiture to plaintiff United States, pursuant to 22 U.S.C. 401(a), of certain communication-jamming devices, to wit, the defendant-in-rem Jammers, owned by claimant and a company of which he was the majority shareholder and CEO. On appeal, claimant contended that the district court erred in dismissing his claim, arguing principally that the stipulation he signed was void on the grounds that it was signed under duress and without consideration. The court held that, as a matter of New York law, no consideration for claimant's agreement to the release was needed; and thus, if consideration was absent, its absence did not make the stipulation invalid. The court also held that claimant's assertions did not meet any part of the test of duress. The court further held that the district court correctly granted the government's motion to strike or for summary judgment on the ground of claimant's lack of Article III standing. Accordingly, the judgment was affirmed. View "United States v. Twenty MilJam-350 IED Jammers" on Justia Law