The Other Hobbs Act: An Old Leviathan in the Modern Administrative State
38 Pages Posted: 6 Apr 2020 Last revised: 8 Jun 2020
Date Written: February 1, 2020
The Hobbs Administrative Orders Review Act is a little-known statute, one that is often mistaken for a federal criminal statute with a similar name. The lesser-known Hobbs Act requires aggrieved parties to challenge certain agency orders in a federal court of appeals within sixty days of the order’s promulgation. However, if no party does so, are later parties bound by a potentially unlawful agency order in subsequent enforcement actions? The Supreme Court recently confronted—and dodged—this question in PDR Network, LLC v. Carlton & Harris Chiropractic, Inc. That case concerned a suit between two private parties under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), which the Federal Communications Commission interpreted as prohibiting faxes that advertise free goods and services. The district court held that it was not bound by the agency’s determination, but the Fourth Circuit held that the FCC’s interpretation was binding on the district court under the Hobbs Act. Justice Breyer’s opinion of the Court remanded the case for the Fourth Circuit to consider two predicate questions. In contrast, Justice Kavanaugh would have allowed parties in enforcement actions to challenge the agency’s interpretation in district court.
Both opinions, however, neglected the extensive but largely unearthed legislative history germane to the disputed question. This Note fills that gap. The legislative history reveals that the law was based on now-outdated assumptions regarding the administrative state. The disconnect between these assumptions and modern realities illuminate the challenges the Court faced when applying an archaic administrative statute to a modern administrative state. And, perhaps surprisingly, the legislative history provides support for both Justices’ views.
Keywords: administrative law, statutory interpretation, Hobbs Act, PDR Network, judicial review, judicial review preclusion, Telephone Consumer Protection Act, TCPA, FCC Order, agency order
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