These cases present the question whether 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 federal law.
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 (1996 Act or Act), Pub. L. 104-104, 110 Stat. 56, created a new telecommunications regime designed to foster competition in local telephone markets. Toward that end, the Act imposed various obligations on incumbent local-exchange carriers (LECs), including a duty to share their networks with competitors. See 47 U. S. C. § 251(c) (1994 ed., Supp. V). When a new entrant seeks access to a market, the incumbent LEC must "provide . . . interconnection with" the incumbent's existing network, § 251(c)(2), and the carriers must then establish "reciprocal compensation arrangements" for transporting and terminating the calls placed by each others' customers, § 251(b)(5). As we have previously described, see AT&T Corp. v. Iowa Utilities Bd., 525 U.S. 366, 371-373 (1999), an incumbent LEC "may negotiate and enter into a binding agreement" with the new entrant "to fulfill the duties" imposed by §§ 251(b) and (c), but "without regard to the standards set forth" in those provisions. §§ 252(a)(1),
As required by the Act, the incumbent LEC in Maryland, petitioner Verizon Maryland Inc., formerly known as Bell Atlantic Maryland, Inc., negotiated an interconnection agreement with competitors, including MFS Intelenet of Maryland, later acquired by respondent MCI WorldCom, Inc. The Maryland Public Service Commission (Commission) approved the agreement. Six months later, Verizon informed WorldCom that it would no longer pay reciprocal compensation for telephone calls made by Verizon's customers to the local access numbers of Internet Service Providers (ISPs), claiming that ISP traffic was not "local traffic"
Verizon filed an action in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, citing 47 U. S. C. § 252(e)(6) and 28 U. S. C. § 1331 as the basis for jurisdiction, and naming as defendants the Commission, its individual members in their official capacities, WorldCom, and other competing LECs. In its complaint, Verizon sought declaratory and injunctive relief from the Commission's order, alleging that the determination that Verizon must pay reciprocal compensation to WorldCom for ISP traffic violated the 1996 Act and the FCC ruling.
The District Court dismissed the action, and a divided panel of the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed. 240 F.3d 279 (2001). The Fourth Circuit held that the Commission had not waived its immunity from suit by voluntarily participating in the regulatory scheme set up under the 1996 Act, and that the doctrine of Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 (1908), does not permit suit against the individual commissioners in their official capacities. It then held that neither 47 U. S. C. § 252(e)(6) nor 28 U. S. C. § 1331 provides a basis for jurisdiction over Verizon's claims against the private defendants. Both Verizon and the United
WorldCom, Verizon, and the United States contend that 47 U. S. C. § 252(e)(6) and 28 U. S. C. § 1331 independently grant federal courts subject-matter jurisdiction to determine whether the Commission's order requiring that Verizon pay WorldCom reciprocal compensation for ISP-bound calls violates the 1996 Act. Section 252 sets forth procedures relating to formation and commission approval of interconnection agreements, and commission approval and continuing review of interconnection terms and conditions (called "[s]tatements of generally available terms," § 252(f)) filed by LECs. Section 252(e)(6) provides, in relevant part: "In any case in which a State commission makes a determination under this section, any party aggrieved by such determination may bring an action in an appropriate Federal district court to determine whether the agreement or statement meets the requirements of section 251 of this title and this section." The determination at issue here is neither the approval or disapproval of a negotiated agreement nor the approval or disapproval of a statement of generally available terms. WorldCom, Verizon, and the United States argue, however, that a state commission's authority under § 252 implicitly encompasses the authority to interpret and enforce an interconnection agreement that the commission has approved,
Verizon alleged in its complaint that the Commission violated the Act and the FCC ruling when it ordered payment of reciprocal compensation for ISP-bound calls. Verizon sought a declaratory judgment that the Commission's order was unlawful, and an injunction prohibiting its enforcement. We have no doubt that federal courts have jurisdiction under § 1331 to entertain such a suit. Verizon seeks relief from the Commission's order "on the ground that such regulation is pre-empted by a federal statute which, by virtue of the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, must prevail," and its claim "thus presents a federal question which the federal courts have jurisdiction under 28 U. S. C. § 1331 to resolve." Shaw v. Delta Air Lines, Inc., 463 U.S. 85, 96, n. 14 (1983).
The Commission contends that since the Act does not create a private cause of action to challenge the Commission's order, there is no jurisdiction to entertain such a suit. We need express no opinion on the premise of this argument. "It is firmly established in our cases that the absence of a
Verizon's claim thus falls within 28 U. S. C. § 1331's general grant of jurisdiction, and contrary to the Fourth Circuit's conclusion, nothing in 47 U. S. C. § 252(e)(6) purports to strip this jurisdiction. Section 252(e)(6) provides for federal review of an agreement when a state commission "makes a determination under [§ 252]." If this does not include (as WorldCom, Verizon, and the United States claim it does) the interpretation or enforcement of an interconnection agreement, then § 252(e)(6) merely makes some other actions by state commissions reviewable in federal court. This is not enough to eliminate jurisdiction under § 1331. Although the situation is not precisely parallel (in that here the elimination of federal district-court review would not amount to the elimination of all review), we think what we said in Abbott Laboratories v. Gardner, 387 U.S. 136, 141 (1967), is nonetheless apt: "The mere fact that some acts are made reviewable should not suffice to support an implication of exclusion as to others." (Internal quotation marks and citation omitted.) And here there is nothing more than that
And finally, none of the other provisions of the Act evince any intent to preclude federal review of a commission determination. If anything, they reinforce the conclusion that § 252(e)(6)'s silence on the subject leaves the jurisdictional grant of § 1331 untouched. For where otherwise applicable jurisdiction was meant to be excluded, it was excluded expressly. Section 252(e)(4) provides: "No State court shall have jurisdiction to review the action of a State commission in approving or rejecting an agreement under this section." In sum, nothing in the Act displays any intent to withdraw federal jurisdiction under § 1331; we will not presume that the statute means what it neither says nor fairly implies.
The Commission nonetheless contends that the Eleventh Amendment bars Verizon's claim against it and its individual commissioners. WorldCom, Verizon, and the United States counter that the Commission is subject to suit because it voluntarily participated in the regulatory regime established by the Act. Whether the Commission waived its immunity is another question we need not decide, because—as the same parties also argue—even absent waiver, Verizon may proceed against the individual commissioners in their official capacities, pursuant to the doctrine of Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 (1908).
In determining whether the doctrine of Ex parte Young avoids an Eleventh Amendment bar to suit, a court need only conduct a "straightforward inquiry into whether [the] complaint alleges an ongoing violation of federal law and seeks relief properly characterized as prospective." Idaho v. Coeur d'Alene Tribe of Idaho, 521 U.S. 261, 296 (1997) (O'Connor, J., joined by Scalia and Thomas, JJ., concurring in part and concurring in judgment); see also id., at 298-299 (Souter, J., joined by Stevens, Ginsburg, and Breyer, JJ., dissenting). Here Verizon sought injunctive and declaratory relief, alleging that the Commission's order requiring payment of reciprocal compensation was preempted by the 1996 Act and an FCC ruling. The prayer for injunctive relief—that state officials be restrained from enforcing an order in contravention of controlling federal law—clearly satisfies our "straightforward inquiry." We have approved injunction suits against state regulatory commissioners in like contexts. See, e. g., Prentis v. Atlantic Coast Line Co., 211 U.S. 210, 230 (1908) ("[W]hen the rate is fixed a bill against the commission to restrain the members from enforcing it will not be bad . . . as a suit against a State, and will be the proper form of remedy"); Alabama Pub. Serv. Comm'n v. Southern R. Co., 341 U.S. 341, 344, n. 4
The Fourth Circuit suggested that Verizon's claim could not be brought under Ex parte Young, because the Commission's order was probably not inconsistent with federal law after all. 240 F. 3d, at 295-297. The court noted that the FCC ruling relied upon by Verizon does not seem to require compensation for ISP traffic; that the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has vacated the ruling; and that the Commission interpreted the interconnection agreement under state contract-law principles. It may (or may not) be true that the FCC's since-vacated ruling does not support Verizon's claim; it may (or may not) also be true that state contract law, and not federal law as Verizon contends, applies to disputes regarding the interpretation of Verizon's agreement. But the inquiry into whether suit lies under Ex parte Young does not include an analysis of the merits of the claim. See Coeur d'Alene, supra, at 281 ("An allegation of an ongoing violation of federal law . . . is ordinarily sufficient" (emphasis added)).
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We conclude that 28 U. S. C. § 1331 provides a basis for jurisdiction over Verizon's claim that the Commission's order requiring reciprocal compensation for ISP-bound calls is pre-empted by federal law. We also conclude that the doctrine of Ex parte Young permits Verizon's suit to go forward against the state commissioners in their official capacities. We vacate the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remand these cases for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
It is so ordered.
Justice O'Connor took no part in the consideration or decision of these cases.
Justice Kennedy, concurring.
For the reasons well stated by the Court, I agree Verizon Maryland Inc. may proceed against the state commissioners in their official capacity under the doctrine of Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 (1908). When the plaintiff seeks to enjoin a state utility commissioner from enforcing an order alleged to violate federal law, the Eleventh Amendment poses no bar. See Idaho v. Coeur d'Alene Tribe of Idaho, 521 U.S. 261, 271 (1997) (principal opinion of Kennedy, J., joined by Rehnquist, C. J.).
This is unlike the case in Idaho v. Coeur d'Alene Tribe of Idaho, supra, where the plaintiffs tried to use Ex parte Young to divest a State of sovereignty over territory within its boundaries. In such a case, a "`straightforward inquiry,' " which the Court endorses here, ante, at 645, proves more complex. In Coeur d'Alene seven Members of this Court described Ex parte Young as requiring nothing more than an allegation of an ongoing violation of federal law and a
In my view, our Ex parte Young jurisprudence requires careful consideration of the sovereign interests of the State as well as the obligations of state officials to respect the supremacy of federal law. See Coeur d'Alene, supra, at 267-280 (principal opinion of Kennedy, J., joined by Rehnquist, C. J.). I believe this approach, whether stated in express terms or not, is the path followed in Coeur d'Alene as well as in the many cases preceding it. I also believe it necessary. Were it otherwise, the Eleventh Amendment, and not Ex parte Young, would become the legal fiction.
The complaint in this litigation, however, parallels the very suit permitted by Ex parte Young itself. With this brief explanation, I join the opinion of the Court.
Justice Souter, with whom Justice Ginsburg and Justice Breyer join, concurring.
I join the Court's opinion, Part III of which rests on a ground all of us can agree upon:
One answer might be that even naming the state commission as a defendant in a suit for declaratory and injunctive relief in federal court is an unconstitutional indignity. But I do not see how this could be right. At least where the suit does not seek to bar a state authority from applying and enforcing state law, a request for declaratory or injunctive relief is simply a formality for obtaining a process of review. Cf. 4 K. Davis, Administrative Law Treatise 206 (2d ed. 1983) ("[T]he suit for injunction and declaratory judgment in a district court under 28 U. S. C. § 1331 . . . is now always available to reach reviewable [federal] administrative action in absence of a specific statute making some other remedy exclusive"). And as for the nominal position of a State as defendant, "[i]t must be regarded as a settled doctrine of this court . . . `that the question whether a suit is within the prohibition of the 11th Amendment is not always determined by reference to the nominal parties on the record.' " In re Ayers, 123 U.S. 443, 487 (1887) (alteration in original) (quoting Poindexter v. Greenhow, 114 U.S. 270, 287 (1885)). If the applicability of the Eleventh Amendment pivots on the formalism that a State is found on the wrong side of the "v." in the case name of a regulatory appeal, constitutional immunity becomes nothing more than an accident of captioning practice in utility cases reviewed by courts. For that matter, the formal and nominal position of a governmental body in these circumstances is not even
The only credible response, which Maryland to its credit advances, is that the State has a strong interest in any case where its adjudication of a federal question is challenged.
Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance were filed for the State of Illinois by James E. Ryan, Attorney General, Joel D. Bertocchi, Solicitor General, A. Benjamin Goldgar and Michael P. Doyle, Assistant Attorneys General, Myra L. Karegianes, John P. Kelliher, and Thomas R. Stan- ton; and for the Virginia State Corporation Commission by William H. Chambliss.
[Reporter's Note: On January 22, 2002, 534 U.S. 1110, the Court granted the motion of TCG Maryland, Inc., to treat the brief for AT&T Communications of Illinois, Inc., et al., in Mathis v. WorldCom Technologies, Inc., post, p. 682, as the brief for respondent TCG Maryland, Inc., in these cases.
On January 7, 2002, 534 U.S. 1076, and February 19, 2002, 534 U.S. 1124, the Court granted the motions of amici curiae filers in Mathis v. WorldCom Technologies, Inc., supra, to have their amici curiae briefs considered as briefs amici curiae in these cases.]