T-Mobile South, LLC v City of Roswell, Georgia

City denied T-Mobile’s application to build a cell tower. It did not provide reasons for the denial in the letter sent to T-Mobile, but, stated the minutes of the meeting were available. The minutes were not available for 26 days after the denial. T-Mobile sued arguing City failed to provide its reasons in writing as required by 47 USC 322(c)(7)(B)(iii). The district court agreed and granted judgment to T-Mobile. The 11th Circuit reversed holding T-Mobile had its own transcript and thus knew why the application was denied. Resolving a circuit split on what satisfies the written reasons requirement, the Court, 6-3, reversed. The majority held that under the plain language of the statute and the structure of the statute as a whole, municipalities must give written reasons in order for judicial review for substantial evidence to occur. However, the majority noted there is no statutory requirement that the reasons be given in the decision letter or any other document though doing so in a brief statement of reasons, as suggested by the federal government, would be good practice. The majority finally held that the reasons must be given nearly contemporaneously with the decision given the 30 day clock to file for judicial review. As City took 26 days to issue its reasons, it violated the statute and the 11th Circuit must be reversed. Justice Alito added a concurrence arguing administrative law principles also support reversal here as there is no need for municipalities to write lengthy opinions and harmless error analysis and remand to correct errors area viable. Chief Justice Roberts joined by Ginsberg and Thomas in part argued there is no requirement for a written set of reasons and thus the decsion below should be affirmed. He also argued that there is no contemporaneous release of reasons requirement in the text of the statute and the majority erred in imposing one. Justice Thomas added a dissent arguing municipalities deserve at least as much deference as federal agencies and no timing requirements are imposed on those agencies.

Jenkins v Stephens

Jenkins raised three grounds in his habeas petition. The district court ruled two were meritorious and ordered resentencing or release. The 5th Circuit reversed on the two sustained grounds and declined to review the third for lack of a cross appeal. The Court, 6-3, reversed. The majority held that because Jenkins would not receive any additional rights or expand any relief, he was entitled to raise the rejected third ground in support of the judgment without cross appeal or obtaining a certificate of appealability. The majority rejected Jenkins’ argument that conditional order required an error free resentencing as there was no such requirement in the text of the order. The dissent argued that habeas judgment are different from other civil judgments in that the successful defendant is entitled to a new proceeding free from the errors the federal court found. Here, Jenkins is trying to obtain a sentencing hearing free from an alleged error that was not found by the district court and thus is attempting to expand the relief he obtained. The dissent also argued this decision will result in a heavy burden on courts of appeals as habeas petitioners will now raise all frivolous grounds that lead to the same relief.