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Supreme Court upholds federal jurisdiction in telecommunications case

The US Supreme Court [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Tuesday in Sprint Communications, Inc. v. Jacobs [SCOTUSblog backgrounder; JURIST report] that the federal court did not have to delay proceedings while a similar state court proceeding was ongoing. The case dealt with the application of Younger v. Harris [opinion] where state regulations affect telephone-via-internet calls. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for a unanimous court:

Circumstances fitting within the Younger doctrine, we have stressed, are "exceptional"; they include ... "state criminal prosecutions," "civil enforcement proceedings," and "civil proceedings involving certain orders that are uniquely in furtherance of the state courts' ability to perform their judicial functions." ... Because this case presents none of the circumstances the Court has ranked as "exceptional," the general rule governs: "[T]he pendency of an action in [a] statecourt is no bar to proceedings concerning the same matter in the Federal court having jurisdiction."
The decision reversed a ruling [opinion] by the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit that federal courts could abstain from hearing the case until state proceedings ended.

The case arose when Windstream Iowa Communications, Inc., a local telecommunications carrier, imposed on Sprint Communications, Inc., intrastate access charges for telephone calls transported via the Internet. The court heard oral arguments in the case last month after granting certiorari [JURIST reports] in April.

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