FCC OKs Procedural Changes to Streamline Administrative Hearings

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — The FCC has adopted procedural changes to administrative hearings under the Communications Act that supplement the Commission’s current Administrative Law Judge referral process and, in the eyes of the Republican majority, “promote more efficient resolution of hearings.”



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In a report and order released Sept. 14, the FCC adopted changes to procedural rules governing administrative hearings under the Communications Act that directly impact the way many administrative hearings are conducted.

Under the Act, they have taken the appearance of trials in civil litigation and include, among other things, live testimony before an administrative law judge, cross-examination
of witnesses, and an initial decision by the ALJ that is subject to review by the
Commission.

The Pai Commission believes that such trial-type hearings “are costly and impose
significant burdens and delays on both applicants and the agency that may not be necessary.”

As such, the Commission is streamlining the hearing process and otherwise updates its rules relating to administrative hearings. This sees the rules amended to do the following:

  • codify and expand the use of a process that relies on written testimony and documentary evidence in lieu of live testimony and cross-examination
  • authorize Commission staff to act as a case manager to supervise development of the written hearing record when the Commission designates itself as the presiding officer at a hearing
  • dispense with the preparation of an initial opinion whenever the record of a proceeding can be certified to the Commission for final decision

“Many of the changes we adopt are designed to supplement the Commission’s current formal hearing processes to enable the Commission to select the personnel and
procedures that are best suited to the issues raised in a particular case and that will achieve the purposes of that hearing without undue cost or delay,” the Commission said. “These changes will expedite and simplify the Commission’s hearing processes consistent with the requirements of the Communications Act and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) while safeguarding the rights of parties to a full and fair hearing.”

The Commission also updated and made conforming edits to the Commission’s rules relating to administrative hearings.

News of the R&O came in a 52-page document, which can be viewed in its entirety here.

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