Kavanaugh May Grapple With Tech, Telecom Cases on High Court (1)

By Michaela Ross,Jon Reid and Alexis Kramer

President Donald Trump is tapping federal appeals court judge Brett Kavanaugh to replace Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court.

“Judge Kavanaugh has impeccable credentials, unsurpassed qualifications and a proven commitment to equal justice under the law,” Trump said.

Kavanaugh, 53, has heard at least 20 technology-related cases in his 12-year run at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

In one such case, Taylor vs. Huerta, Kavanaugh wrote that the Federal Aviation Administration’s rule for registering hobbyists’ drones was unlawful.

Kavanaugh argued in a 2017 dissent that Obama-era net neutrality rules violated the First Amendment rights of internet service providers such as AT&T Inc. The rules, which were scrapped by the FCC in December, banned internet service providers from blocking or slowing legal content on their networks.

If confirmed by a narrowly divided Senate, Kavanaugh may encounter several technology and telecommunications-related cases on the high court during its next term. The justices are preparing to decide whether a proposed nationwide class of consumers can sue Apple Inc. for allegedly monopolizing the iPhone app market.

The Supreme Court June 18 granted Apple’s petition to review a lower court ruling that the plaintiffs have standing to bring antitrust claims regarding apps sold through Apple’s online store. The high court, in Apple Inc. v. Pepper, has the opportunity to shed some light on the extent that online markets can be held liable for third-party vendors’ products and pricing practices.

Public Access TV

The court may also decide to add to next term’s docket a case involving the extent to which the First Amendment applies to private operators of public-access TV channels, in Manhattan Community Access Corp v. Halleck.

Manhattan Community, a nonprofit, asked the court to review a ruling that allowed free speech claims against it to proceed on the grounds that the channels are public forums and a city official allegedly designated the nonprofit to run them.

The Supreme Court, if it grants the petition, would have the chance to resolve a split among courts over whether public-access TV channels qualify as public forums.

The high court may also consider whether the U.S. Court of Federal Claims can hear claims stemming from the government’s cancellation of wireless spectrum licenses. The justices are being asked in Alpine PCS Inc. v. U.S. to review a lower court ruling affirming dismissal of a telecom company’s claims—that the Federal Communications Commission took away spectrum licenses without just compensation—for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

After law school, Kavanaugh worked under counsel Kenneth Starr in his probe of President Bill Clinton. He also served as President George W. Bush’s White House staff secretary before Bush nominated him to the D.C. Circuit.