VERIZON MARYLAND INC. v. PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION OF MARYLAND

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
00-1531
Petitioner 
Verizon Maryland Inc.
Respondent 
Public Service Commission of Maryland
Consolidation 
No. 00-1711
Advocates
(Argued the cause for the petitioner in No. 00-1531)
(Argued the cause for the petitioner United States)
(Public Service Commission, Baltimore, Maryland, argued the cause for the State Respondent)
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Facts of the Case 

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 requires that incumbent local-exchange carriers (LECs) provide interconnection with their existing networks; that the carriers then establish reciprocal compensation arrangements for transporting and terminating the calls of each others' customers; and that their interconnection agreements be approved by a state utility commission. Verizon Maryland Inc., the incumbent LEC in Maryland, negotiated an interconnection agreement with MCI WorldCom, Inc. After the Maryland Public Service Commission approved the agreement, Verizon informed WorldCom that it would no longer pay reciprocal compensation for calls made by Verizon's customers to the local access numbers of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) because ISP traffic was not local traffic subject to the reciprocal compensation agreement. WorldCom filed a complaint with the Commission, which ordered Verizon to make the payments for past and future ISP-bound calls. Verizon then filed an action in federal district court, seeking an injunction prohibiting its enforcement, alleging that the determination that Verizon must pay reciprocal compensation for ISP traffic violated the Act. The District Court dismissed the action. In affirming, the Court of Appeals held that the Commission had not waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity and that the Act did not provide a basis for jurisdiction over Verizon's claims.

Question 

Do federal district courts have jurisdiction over a telecommunication carrier's claim that the order of a state utility commission requiring reciprocal compensation for telephone calls to Internet Service Providers violates the Telecommunications Act of 1996?

Conclusion 
Decision: 8 votes for Verizon Maryland Inc., 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: 47 U.S.C. 251

Yes. In an 8-0 opinion delivered by Justice Antonin Scalia, the Court held that the district court had jurisdiction, so as to review the Commission's order for compliance with federal law, to entertain the suit because resolution of the LEC's claim turned on whether the Act, or an FCC ruling issued thereunder, precluded the state commission from ordering payment of reciprocal compensation. Under the Ex parte Young doctrine, the Court also reasoned that Verizon's request for injunctive relief to restrain state officials from enforcing an order allegedly in contravention of controlling federal law avoided an Eleventh Amendment bar to suit. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor took no part in the consideration or decision of the cases.

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VERIZON MARYLAND INC. v. PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION OF MARYLAND. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 26 November 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2001/2001_00_1531>.
VERIZON MARYLAND INC. v. PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION OF MARYLAND, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2001/2001_00_1531 (last visited November 26, 2014).
"VERIZON MARYLAND INC. v. PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION OF MARYLAND," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed November 26, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2001/2001_00_1531.