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FCC Turns Down Amateur Licensee’s Appeal

02/26/2020

In a Memorandum Opinion and Order (MO&O) released on February 20, the FCC turned down an appeal by William F. Crowell, W6WBJ, of Diamond Springs, California, of an Administrative Law Judge’s (ALJ) dismissal of Crowell’s amateur radio license renewal application. Chief ALJ Richard L. Sippel, ruled in 2018 that Crowell “failed to prosecute his application by refusing to attend a hearing scheduled by the judge,” and that this warranted dismissal of Crowell’s 2007 renewal application. The FCC Wireless Telecommunications Bureau had designated Crowell’s renewal application for hearing based on allegations that he had violated the Communications Act and FCC rules by causing intentional interference and by transmitting one-way communications, indecent language, and music on amateur frequencies. The hearing was set to be held in Washington, DC, and Crowell filed a notice of appearance certifying that he would appear and present his case.

The case was interrupted by what the FCC in the MO&O called “a hiatus of several years, during which Crowell’s petition to disqualify the Judge was pending.”

In August 2016, the FCC imposed a $25,000 fine on Crowell for intentional interference and transmitting prohibited communications. The FCC said in a Forfeiture Order (FO) that the penalty “is based on the full base forfeiture amount as well as an upward adjustment reflecting Mr. Crowell’s decision to continue his misconduct after being warned that his actions violated the Communications Act and the Commission’s rules.” The FCC noted that Crowell did not deny making the alleged transmissions but argued in large part that they were protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution,” the Forfeiture Order said. The February 20 MO&O does not reference the Forfeiture Order nor its disposition.

When the renewal application litigation resumed in 2017, Crowell asked that the hearing be moved to the Sacramento, California, area, arguing that he could not afford to travel to Washington. Sippel denied the motion.

“In the Dismissal Order, the Judge responded to Crowell’s refusal to attend a hearing in Washington, D.C., by granting the Enforcement Bureau’s motion to dismiss Crowell’s application,” the FCC said in its MO&O. The ALJ held that Crowell’s refusal to attend a hearing in Washington, DC, “constituted a failure to prosecute and thereby effectively violated Section 1.221(c) of the rules, which requires dismissal if an applicant fails to commit to appear on the date fixed for hearing.” The Judge agreed with the Enforcement Bureau that many of the arguments Crowell raised on appeal “are not properly before us in reviewing the Dismissal Order and should be disregarded.”

Crowell’s amateur license expired in 2007, but he has been permitted, under FCC rules, to operate while his renewal application remains pending.    



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