Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority

124 Cal. App. 4th 346, 2004 Cal. PUC LEXIS 1973 (November 22, 2004)

The Court of Appeal (Sixth District) reversed the Commission, holding that Sections 1201 and 1202 of the Public Utilities Code, granting the Commission jurisdiction over railroad crossings, did not apply to Petitioner, a public agency providing passenger rail service. Even though the statutes at issue could be characterized as of the type the Legislature intended the Commission to enforce, the court accorded no deference to the Commission’s interpretation of the statutes, choosing instead to subject the Commission’s interpretation to “independent review.” Since the question before the court was one of jurisdiction, the Court’s choice is not particularly surprising (see Para. 23, infra, but see also City of Arlington (footnote 25, infra) ). But, the opinion did not rest its election to conduct an expressly independent review (instead of applying Greyhound16 deference) on the jurisdictional nature of the question. Instead, the court suggested that great deference was due to agency construction of a statute only where that construction was embraced in a quasi legislative act by the agency, one authorized by the Legislature (such as promulgating a regulation). (New Cingular Wireless (Para. 1) adopts a similar approach.) This holding seems to represent a departure from the broad deference found in decisions out of the Second District (see e.g. Para. 24).17 The Commission unsuccessfully sought review of the SCVTA Order in the California Supreme Court.

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