ARLB019 FCC Seeks to Streamline its Hearings Process
The FCC is asking for public comments on procedural changes that, if
adopted, would streamline many administrative hearings under the
Communications Act of 1934, as amended.
“Currently, these hearings typically are conducted like 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 administrative law judge that is
subject to review by the Commission,” the FCC said in a Notice of
Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in EB Docket 19-214. The FCC said its
proposals “are designed to supplement the Commission’s current
administrative law judge referral process and promote more efficient
resolution of hearings.”
The NPRM can be found in PDF format at,
If adopted, the proposals would:
* Codify and expand the use of a process that would rely on written
testimony and documentary evidence in lieu of live testimony and
* Enable Commission staff to act as a case manager that would
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 intermediate opinion, whenever
the record of a proceeding can be certified to the Commission for
According to the FCC, the proposed procedures would expedite its
hearing processes, consistent with the requirements of the
Communications Act and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) while
ensuring transparency and procedural fairness.
The FCC’s current hearing rules provide that “any hearing upon an
application shall be a full hearing in which the applicant and all
other parties in interest shall be permitted to participate.” The
FCC noted that it has, on numerous occasions, curtailed the use of
oral testimony and cross-examination in particular proceedings, in
order to expedite the hearing process.
“In our experience, disputes in Commission proceedings typically
involve criticisms by one party of the evidence proffered by another
party or the legal significance of that evidence, not actual
conflicts in testimony between two witnesses concerning
outcome-determinative facts,” the FCC said.
“We contemplate codifying and expanding the use of a written hearing
process that can be used in most adjudicative proceedings, including
those conducted by an administrative law judge. In particular, we
propose to authorize the presiding officer to conduct a written
hearing whenever factual disputes can be adequately resolved on a
Among other proposed changes, the FCC would prohibit staff members
who have taken an active part in investigating, prosecuting, or
advocating in a case from serving as a case manager and from
advising or assisting the case manager in the same case.