The 9th Circuit’s Snohomish and PUC decisions rationalize what has been a confusing, conflicted area of law.
Scott H. Strauss is a partner at Spiegel McDiarmid. Jeffrey A. Schwarz is an of counsel at Spiegel McDiarmid.
In “The Mobile-Sierra Doctrine, Part Deux,” (March 2007), Stephen L. Teichler and Ilia Levitine report on two recent 9th Circuit decisions1 that they characterize as “a dramatic shift of prevailing precedent” with respect to Mobile-Sierra jurisprudence.2 As evidence of the “shift,” the authors highlight the court’s characterization of the “public-interest” test as a “presumption as opposed to a standard of review separate and apart from the just and reasonable standard.” But in fact, the 9th Circuit decisions simply work a needed correction to a “doctrine” that, over time, has slipped further and further from its statutory moorings.
The 9th Circuit rulings are “dramatic” only because of the extent to which courts stretched and distorted the original Mobile-Sierra rule, which one court called “refreshingly simple,” 3 so that it became, in Teichler and Levitine’s words, “incredibly nuanced and complex over time.”