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Council Tree Investors, Inc. v. FCC & USA, No. 12-9543 (10th Cir.)

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Released: July 24, 2012
ORAL ARGUMENT REQUESTED
BRIEF FOR RESPONDENTS
IN THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE TENTH CIRCUIT

NO. 12-9543

COUNCIL TREE INVESTORS, INC. AND BETHEL NATIVE
CORPORATION,
PETITIONERS,
V.
FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION
AND UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
RESPONDENTS.

ON PETITION FOR REVIEW OF ORDERS OF THE
FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION

JOSEPH F. WAYLAND
SEAN A. LEV
ACTING ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL
GENERAL COUNSEL


ROBERT B. NICHOLSON
PETER KARANJIA
ROBERT J. WIGGERS
DEPUTY GENERAL COUNSEL
ATTORNEYS


JACOB M. LEWIS
UNITED STATES
ASSOCIATE GENERAL COUNSEL
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

WASHINGTON, D.C. 20530
LAURENCE N. BOURNE

COUNSEL

FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20554
(202) 418-1740


TABLE OF CONTENTS


STATEMENT OF RELATED CASES ........................................................ viii
GLOSSARY .................................................................................................... ix
JURISDICTION................................................................................................1
QUESTIONS PRESENTED .............................................................................3
STATUTES AND REGULATIONS ................................................................5
COUNTERSTATEMENT OF THE CASE ......................................................5
COUNTERSTATEMENT OF FACTS.............................................................6
I.
REGULATORY BACKGROUND ...........................................................6
A. Spectrum License Auctions And “Designated Entities”.......................6
B. The 2006 Amendments To The DE Rules ............................................9
C. Major Auctions Conducted Under the 2006 DE Rules.......................12
1.
Auction 66 (the AWS Auction) ......................................................12
2.
Auction 73 (the 700 MHz Auction) ................................................13
II. PETITIONERS’ PRIOR JUDICIAL CHALLENGES TO
THE DE RULES AND THE AUCTIONS CONDUCTED
UNDER THEM........................................................................................15

A. Council Tree’s Initial Judicial Challenge to the DE Rules
(Council Tree I) ...................................................................................15
B. Council Tree II ....................................................................................17
C. Council Tree III ...................................................................................18
III. THE D BLOCK WAIVER PROCEEDING ............................................21
SUMMARY OF ARGUMENT ......................................................................26
STANDARD OF REVIEW ............................................................................28
i

ARGUMENT ..................................................................................................28
I.
THE COMMISSION REASONABLY DISMISSED
PETITIONERS’ RECONSIDERATION PETITION AS
MOOT AND THEIR “SUPPLEMENT” AS UNTIMELY.....................28

II. THIS COURT LACKS JURISDICTION TO CONSIDER
PETITIONERS’ CHALLENGE TO THE CONDUCT OF
AUCTION 73 UNDER THE NOW-VACATED DE
RULES. ....................................................................................................32

III. PETITIONERS’ REQUEST TO RESCIND AUCTION 73
IS BARRED BY COUNCIL TREE III. ...................................................39
IV. APA SECTION 706(2) WOULD NOT REQUIRE
RESCISSION OF AUCTION 73 EVEN IF THE RESULTS
OF THAT AUCTION WERE PROPERLY BEFORE THE
COURT. ...................................................................................................45

CONCLUSION ...............................................................................................51
STATEMENT REGARDING ORAL ARGUMENT.....................................51
ii

TABLE OF AUTHORITIES

CASES


21st Century Telesis Joint Venture v. FCC, 318 F.3d
192 (D.C. Cir. 2003)....................................................................................32
Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Pena, 515 U.S. 200
(1995) ............................................................................................................7
Biggerstaff v. FCC, 511 F.3d 178 (D.C. Cir. 2007)........................................34
Charter Commc’ns, Inc. v. FCC, 460 F.3d 31 (D.C.
Cir. 2006).....................................................................................................33
Council Tree Commc’ns, Inc. v. FCC, 324 F. App’x
3 (D.C. Cir. 2009)................................................................................... 5, 18
Council Tree Commc’ns, Inc. v. FCC, 503 F.3d 284
(3d Cir. 2007) ......................................................................................... 5, 17
Council Tree Commc’ns, Inc. v. FCC, 619 F.3d 235
(3d Cir. 2010) , cert. denied, 131 S. Ct. 1784
(2011). ................................................................................................. passim
Council Tree Commc’ns, Inc. v. FCC, No. 06-2943
(3d Cir. June 29, 2006)................................................................................16
Davis Cnty. Solid Waste Mgmt. v. United States
EPA, 108 F.3d 1454 (D.C. Cir. 1997) .........................................................49
FCC v. Pottsville Broadcasting Co., 309 U.S. 134
(1940) ................................................................................................... 31, 38
Forest Guardians v. Babbitt, 174 F.3d 1178 (10th
Cir. 1999).....................................................................................................49
Fresno Mobile Radio, Inc. v. FCC, 165 F.3d 965
(D.C. Cir. 1999).............................................................................................6
Hecht Co. v. Bowles, 321 U.S. 321 (1944) .............................................. 45, 46
HRI, Inc. v. EPA, 198 F.3d 1224 (10th Cir. 2000)................................... 35, 36
Idaho Farm Bureau v. Babbitt, 58 F.3d 1392 (9th
Cir. 1995).....................................................................................................49
In re Council Tree Investors, Inc. and Bethel Native
Corp., Order, No. 11-9569, Document:
01018771560 (10th Cir. Jan. 4, 2012).........................................................24
iii

Kennecott Utah Copper Corp. v. Dep’t of Interior,
88 F.3d 1191 (D.C. Cir. 1996) ............................................................. 34, 35
Los Angeles Ltd. P’ship v. FCC, 70 F.3d 1358 (D.C.
Cir. 1995).....................................................................................................17
MACTEC, Inc. v. Gorelick, 427 F.3d 821 (10th Cir.
2005)......................................................................................... 40, 41, 42, 44
Morris v. Noe, 672 F.3d 1185 (10th Cir. 2012) ..............................................30
Motor Vehicle Mfrs. Ass’n of the United States, Inc.
v. State Farm Mutual Auto. Ins. Co., 463 U.S. 29
(1983) ..........................................................................................................28
Natural Res. Def. Council v. EPA, 513 F.3d 257
(D.C. Cir. 2008)...........................................................................................39
NetworkIP, LLC v. FCC, 548 F.3d 116 (D.C. Cir.
2008)............................................................................................................32
Ohio v. EPA, 838 F.2d 1325 (D.C. Cir. 1988) ................................................35
Omnipoint Corp. v. FCC, 78 F.3d 620 (D.C. Cir.
1996)..............................................................................................................7
PGBA, LLC v. United States, 389 F.3d 1219 (Fed.
Cir. 2004).....................................................................................................50
Porter v. Warner Holding Co., 328 U.S. 395 (1946)......................................46
Qwest Corp. v. FCC, 258 F.3d 1191 (10th Cir.
2001)..................................................................................................... 28, 50
Qwest Corp. v. FCC, No. 99-9546 (10th Cir. Aug.
27, 2001)......................................................................................................50
Rio Grande Silvery Minnow v. Bureau of
Reclamation, 601 F.3d 1096 (10th Cir. 2010) ............................................29
Sorenson Commc’ns, Inc. v. FCC, 567 F.3d 1215
(10th Cir. 2009) ...........................................................................................28
Sugar Cane Growers Coop. v. Veneman, 289 F.3d
89 (D.C. Cir. 2002)......................................................................................48
U.S. Bancorp Mortg. Co. v. Bonner Mall P’ship,
513 U.S. 18 (1994) ......................................................................................46
iv

United States ex rel. Taylor v. Gabelli, 345 F. Supp.
2d 313 (S.D.N.Y. 2004) ..............................................................................10
WAIT Radio v. FCC, 418 F.2d 1153 (D.C. Cir.
1969)..................................................................................................... 24, 29
Weinberger v. Romero-Barcelo, 456 U.S. 305
(1982) ................................................................................................... 45, 46
West Penn Power Co. v. EPA, 860 F.2d 581 (3d Cir.
1988)............................................................................................................17
Yapp v. Excel Corp., 186 F.3d 1222 (10th Cir.
1999)..................................................................................................... 41, 42

ADMINISTRATIVE DECISIONS


Alpine PCS, Inc., Requests for Waiver, 25 FCC Rcd
469 (2010) ...................................................................................................32
Amendment of the Commission’s Rules to Establish
Part 27, the Wireless Commc’ns Serv., 12 FCC
Rcd 10785 (1997) ..........................................................................................9
Implementation of Section 309(j) of the
Communications Act – Competitive Bidding, 11
FCC Rcd 136 (1995) .....................................................................................9
Implementation of the Commercial Spectrum
Enhancement Act and Modernization of the
Commission’s Competitive Bidding Rules and
Procedures
, 21 FCC Rcd 1753 (2006).............................................. 8, 9, 10
Implementation of the Commercial Spectrum
Enhancement Act and Modernization of the
Commission’s Competitive Bidding Rules and
Procedures,
21 FCC Rcd 4753 (2006)............................................... 3, 7, 10
Implementation of the Commercial Spectrum
Enhancement Act and Modernization of the
Commission’s Competitive Bidding Rules and
Procedures
, 21 FCC Rcd 6703 (2006).......................................................11
Implementation of the Commercial Spectrum
Enhancement Act and Modernization of the
Commission’s Competitive Bidding Rules and
Procedures,
23 FCC Rcd 5425 (2008)........................................................12
v

Service Rules for the 698-746, 747-762 and 777-
792 MHz Bands, 21 FCC Rcd 9345 (2006) ................................................13
Service Rules for the 698-746, 747-762 and 777-
792 MHz Bands, Report and Order and Further
Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, 22 FCC Rcd
8064 (2007) ......................................................................................... passim
Service Rules for the 698-746, 747-762 and 777-
792 MHz Bands, 22 FCC Rcd 15289 (2007) ..............................................18
Service Rules for the 698-746, 747-762 and 777-
792 MHz Bands, 23 FCC Rcd 8047 (2008) ................................... 15, 23, 29

STATUTES AND REGULATIONS

5 U.S.C. § 706 .................................................................................................47
5 U.S.C. § 706(2)...................................................................................... 27, 45
5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A) .......................................................................................28
28 U.S.C. § 2342 .............................................................................................48
28 U.S.C. § 2344 .............................................................................. 2, 4, 27, 33
47 U.S.C. § 154(j) ...........................................................................................31
47 U.S.C. § 307 .............................................................................................2, 6
47 U.S.C. § 309 .............................................................................................2, 6
47 U.S.C. § 309(j)(1).........................................................................................6
47 U.S.C. § 309(j)(3)(A) ...................................................................................6
47 U.S.C. § 309(j)(3)(B) ........................................................................ 6, 7, 19
47 U.S.C. § 309(j)(3)(C) ...................................................................................6
47 U.S.C. § 309(j)(3)(D) ...................................................................................6
47 U.S.C. § 402(a).................................................................................. 2, 4, 33
47 C.F.R. § 1.106(f) ................................................................................. 25, 31
47 C.F.R. § 1.2110(a) ........................................................................................7
47 C.F.R. § 1.2110(b)(1)(i) .............................................................................11
47 C.F.R. § 1.2110(b)(3)(iv)(A)......................................................................11
47 C.F.R. § 1.2110(b)(3)(iv)(B)......................................................................11
vi

47 C.F.R. § 1.2110(f)(2)(i) – (iii)......................................................................7
47 C.F.R. § 1.2111(d)(2)(i) .............................................................................11

OTHERS


Restatement (Second) of Judgments § 24
(1982) ..........................................................................................................42
Ronald M. Levin, Vacation at Sea: Judicial
Remedies and Equitable Discretion in
Administrative Law
, 53 Duke L.J. 291 (2003) ............................................48
United States Dep’t of Justice, Attorney General’s
Manual on the Administrative Procedure Act 108
(1947) ..........................................................................................................47

vii


STATEMENT OF RELATED CASES

There are three cases related to this one: (1) Council Tree Commc’ns
v. FCC, 503 F.3d 284 (3d Cir. 2007); (2) Council Tree Commc’ns v. FCC,
No. 07-1454. 324 F. App’x 3 (D.C. Cir. 2009); and (3) Council Tree
Commc’ns v. FCC, 619 F.3d 235 (3d Cir. 2010), cert denied. 131 S. Ct. 1784
(2011).
viii

GLOSSARY

APA
Administrative
Procedure
Act
Auction 66


the AWS spectrum license auction
Auction 73


the 700 MHz spectrum license auction
AWS
Advanced
Wireless
Services
Bethel
Native Bethel
Native
Corporation
Council Tree


Council Tree Investors, Inc.
DE
designated
entity
FCC
Federal
Communications
Commission
J.A.
Joint
Appendix
MHz



megahertz
MMTC Minority
Media
and
Telecommunications Council

Pet.
Br.
Petitioners’
Brief






ix

IN THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE TENTH CIRCUIT

NO. 12-9543

COUNCIL TREE INVESTORS, INC. AND BETHEL NATIVE
CORPORATION,
PETITIONERS,
V.
FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION
AND UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
RESPONDENTS.

ON PETITION FOR REVIEW OF ORDERS OF THE
FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION

BRIEF FOR RESPONDENTS

JURISDICTION

Petitioners Council Tree Investors, Inc. and Bethel Native Corporation
(collectively, “petitioners”) challenge the Commission’s D Block Waiver
Order and Waiver Reconsideration Order. Waiver of Section
1.2110(b)(3)(iv)(A) of the Commission’s Rules for the Upper 700 MHz Band
D Block, Order, 22 FCC Rcd 20354 (2007) (“D Block Waiver Order”) (J.A.

6), petition for recon. dismissed, 27 FCC Rcd 908 (2012) (“Waiver
Reconsideration Order”) (J.A. 12). In those orders, the Commission (1)
granted a limited waiver of one rule governing the eligibility of certain small
businesses for targeted competitive bidding benefits in connection with one
major spectrum license auction (known as the 700 MHz auction or Auction
73), and (2) dismissed, as moot and untimely, respectively, petitioners’
petition for reconsideration and “supplement” regarding that waiver grant.
Because petitioners filed their petition for judicial review within 60 days of
the entry of the Waiver Reconsideration Order, this Court has jurisdiction
under 47 U.S.C. § 402(a) and 28 U.S.C. § 2344 to consider their challenge to
the Commission’s decision to dismiss the petition for administrative
reconsideration of the D Block Waiver Order as moot and their supplement as
untimely. See Waiver Reconsideration Order ¶ 4 & n.12 (J.A. 13-14).
This Court lacks jurisdiction, however, to consider petitioners’ attempt
to use their petition for review of the D Block Waiver Order and the Waiver
Reconsideration Order as a vehicle to rescind the results of Auction 73. As
discussed in Argument II, below, the relevant conduct of Auction 73 was the
subject of an earlier order for which the time for review has long since
passed.
2

QUESTIONS PRESENTED

The FCC conducts competitive auctions to allocate licenses to use
portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. 47 U.S.C. §§ 307, 309. In 2006, to
address documented instances of fraud and abuse, the agency revised and
tightened certain rules designed to encourage the participation of small
businesses (known as “designated entities” or “DEs”) in such auctions.
Implementation of the Commercial Spectrum Enhancement Act and
Modernization of the Commission’s Competitive Bidding Rules and
Procedures, 21 FCC Rcd 4753 (2006) (“DE Second Report & Order”). In an
April 2007 rulemaking order, the Commission determined that those revised
DE eligibility rules should apply to Auction 73. Service Rules for the 698-
746, 747-762 and 777-792 MHz Bands, Report and Order and Further Notice
of Proposed Rulemaking, 22 FCC Rcd 8064 ¶ 6 (2007) (“700 MHz First
Report and Order”).
The Commission conducted Auction 73 in early 2008 pursuant to the
revised DE rules – save for a limited waiver that the Commission granted in
the D Block Waiver Order with respect to one rule for one license. The
license subject to that waiver, however, was not ultimately awarded. On
direct review of the DE Second Report & Order, in response to a challenge
brought by Council Tree and Bethel Native, the Third Circuit in 2010 set
3

aside two of the revised DE rules for inadequate notice under the
Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”), but the court rejected petitioners’
request that it rescind Auction 73 for having been conducted pursuant to
those rules. Council Tree Commc’ns, Inc. v. FCC, 619 F.3d 235, 248-59 (3d
Cir. 2010) (“Council Tree III”), cert. denied, 131 S. Ct. 1784 (2011).
Petitioners now seek the same remedy on review of the D Block Waiver
Order and the Waiver Reconsideration Order.
The case presents the following questions for review:
(1) Whether the Commission reasonably dismissed petitioners’ request
for reconsideration of the D Block Waiver Order as moot and their
“supplement” as untimely and beyond the scope of the waiver proceeding.
(2) Whether petitioners’ challenge is untimely, and thus beyond this
Court’s jurisdiction under 47 U.S.C. § 402(a) and 28 U.S.C. § 2344, insofar
as petitioners seek rescission of Auction 73.
(3) Whether petitioners’ challenge is barred by principles of claim
preclusion insofar as petitioners seek rescission of Auction 73.
(4) Whether, if the results of Auction 73 are properly before the Court,
the Court retains remedial discretion to deny petitioners’ request for
rescission.
4

STATUTES AND REGULATIONS

Relevant statutes and regulations are contained in an addendum to this
brief.

COUNTERSTATEMENT OF THE CASE

This case reflects petitioners’ fourth attempt – in three different courts
of appeals – to set aside spectrum license auctions conducted under revised
bidding credit eligibility rules that the Commission adopted in 2006. The
Third Circuit dismissed their first challenge as “incurably premature.”
Council Tree Commc’ns, Inc. v. FCC, 503 F.3d 284, 287-91 (3d Cir. 2007)
(“Council Tree I”). The D.C. Circuit dismissed their second challenge as
untimely because petitioners sought review of the wrong order. Council Tree
Commc’ns, Inc. v. FCC, 324 F. App’x 3, 4-5 (D.C. Cir. 2009) (“Council Tree
II”). In petitioners’ third challenge, the Third Circuit upheld one challenged
DE eligibility rule and set aside two others for inadequate notice under the
APA, but rejected petitioners’ request to set aside the results of multi-billion
dollar auctions (including Auction 73) conducted under those rules. Council
Tree III, 619 F.3d at 248-59. Petitioners now ask this Court to rescind
Auction 73 on review of two orders that granted – and dismissed
reconsideration of – a narrow waiver of one DE eligibility rule for a single
Auction 73 license that was never ultimately awarded.
5

COUNTERSTATEMENT OF FACTS

I.

REGULATORY BACKGROUND

A. Spectrum License Auctions And “Designated Entities”

The Communications Act of 1934 authorizes the FCC to award
licenses to use the electromagnetic spectrum to provide communications
services. See 47 U.S.C. §§ 307, 309. Since 1993, the Act has required the
Commission to award spectrum licenses “through a system of competitive
bidding,” i.e., by auction. 47 U.S.C. § 309(j)(1).
The statute directs the Commission to design auction rules and
procedures that “balance a number of potentially conflicting objectives.”
Fresno Mobile Radio, Inc. v. FCC, 165 F.3d 965, 971 (D.C. Cir. 1999).
These objectives include: developing and deploying new technologies and
services “for the benefit of the public . . . without administrative or judicial
delays,” 47 U.S.C. § 309(j)(3)(A); avoiding “unjust enrichment,” id.
§ 309(j)(3)(C); ensuring the “efficient and intensive use of the
electromagnetic spectrum,” id. § 309(j)(3)(D); and “promoting economic
opportunity and competition . . . by avoiding excessive concentration of
licenses,” id. § 309(j)(3)(B). In adopting rules, the Act requires the agency to
avoid “excessive concentration of licenses . . . by disseminating licenses
among a wide variety of applicants,” including several statutorily prescribed
groups commonly referred to as “designated entities”: “small businesses,
6

rural telephone companies, and businesses owned by members of minority
1
groups and women.” 47 U.S.C. § 309(j)(3)(B).
To promote the participation of these designated entities in spectrum
license auctions, the Commission has made them eligible for bidding credits,
which discount the payments DEs are required to make for licenses they win
at auction “in an amount measured as a percentage” of their winning bids.
Council Tree III, 619 F.3d at 239 (citing 47 C.F.R. § 1.2110(f)(2)(i) – (iii)).
For example, if a company that meets the DE criteria qualifies for a 20
percent bidding credit in a particular auction, and if the company makes a
winning bid of $500,000 for a license in that auction, it will be required to
pay only $400,000 to obtain that license.
To qualify for bidding credits, a prospective DE must demonstrate that
its gross revenues, in combination with those of its “attributable” interest
holders, fall below certain caps that vary with the service to be provided. See
DE Second Report & Order, 21 FCC Rcd at 4757 ¶ 9. For purposes of

1 Although FCC rules define “designated entities” to include “businesses
owned by members of minority groups and/or women,” 47 C.F.R.
§ 1.2110(a), the Commission eliminated any DE benefits that were based on
the race or gender of an applicant’s owners after the Supreme Court ruled in
Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Pena, 515 U.S. 200 (1995), that certain federal
affirmative action programs were unconstitutional. See Omnipoint Corp. v.
FCC,
78 F.3d 620 (D.C. Cir. 1996). Since Adarand, bidding credits have
been available only to eligible small businesses based on specific size
standards.
7

assessing an applicant’s eligibility for bidding credits, the Commission since
2000 has attributed to the applicant: the applicant’s own gross revenues; those
of its affiliates; those of its “controlling interests” (i.e., those entities that have
de jure or de facto control over the applicant); and those of the affiliates of its
controlling interests. Id. at 4758-59 ¶ 12.
The agency has also taken further steps to ensure that “only legitimate
small businesses reap the benefits of the Commission’s designated entity
program.” Implementation of the Commercial Spectrum Enhancement Act
and Modernization of the Commission’s Competitive Bidding Rules and
Procedures, 21 FCC Rcd 1753, 1757 ¶ 6 (2006) (“DE Further Notice”). For
example, under the FCC’s unjust enrichment rules, a DE that has used
bidding credits to acquire a license must return some or all of those credits if
it loses its eligibility for bidding credits or subsequently transfers its license
to an entity that is not eligible for DE status. At various times, FCC rules
have required repayment of bidding credits if a licensee loses its DE
8

2
eligibility at some point during the ten-year license term. The rules in effect
at the beginning of 2006, however, required repayment of bidding credits
only if a licensee lost its DE eligibility within the first five years after it won
the license. See Council Tree III, 619 F.3d at 240-41.

B. The 2006 Amendments To The DE Rules

In administering its auction program, the FCC discovered several
instances of fraud and abuse by applicants improperly claiming eligibility for
DE benefits. For example, some putative DEs were “put[ting] themselves
forward as small companies in order to qualify for auction discounts,” even
though they had entered into agreements to lease their prospective spectrum
rights to larger firms that were not entitled to such benefits. See DE Further
Notice, 21 FCC Rcd at 1771 (Statement of Comm’r Copps). Other bidders
reportedly had acquired discounted licenses “not for the legitimate objective
of developing or offering spectrum services,” but rather “as investments to be
later sold for profit in the after-market.” United States ex rel. Taylor v.

2 See, e.g., Implementation of Section 309(j) of the Communications Act –
Competitive Bidding, 11 FCC Rcd 136, 180 (1995) (requiring total
reimbursement of bidding credits if eligibility was lost at any time during the
ten-year license term); Amendment of the Commission’s Rules to Establish
Part 27, the Wireless Commc’ns Serv.,
12 FCC Rcd 10785, 10918-19 (1997)
(providing for 100 percent reimbursement for loss of eligibility during the
first five years of the license term, with declining reimbursement obligations
for years six through ten).
9

Gabelli, 345 F. Supp. 2d 313, 321-22 (S.D.N.Y. 2004) (internal quotation
marks and brackets omitted).
In February 2006, after petitioner Council Tree submitted a proposal to
tighten some of the eligibility rules for DE benefits, the Commission issued a
notice of proposed rulemaking. That notice sought comment on measures to
“prevent companies from circumventing the objectives of the designated
entity eligibility rules” and to ensure that DE benefits are “available only to
bona fide small businesses.” DE Further Notice, 21 FCC Rcd at 1757 ¶¶ 6-7.
In April 2006, after reviewing comments submitted in response to the
DE Further Notice, the FCC issued the DE Second Report & Order. In an
effort to prevent fraud and abuse in the DE program, that order amended and
tightened the agency’s auction rules for designated entities in several
respects. With regard to leasing and resale arrangements, the Commission
adopted two new eligibility restrictions designed to ensure that every
recipient of DE benefits uses its licenses to provide telecommunications
services directly to the public. DE Second Report & Order, 21 FCC Rcd at
4762-64 ¶¶ 21-27. One restriction – the 25% Attribution Rule – provided that
“if a DE leases or resells (including at wholesale) more than 25% of its
spectrum capacity to any single lessee or purchaser, it must add that lessee’s
or purchaser’s revenues to its own to determine its continued eligibility for
10

DE credits.” Council Tree III, 619 F.3d at 251 (citing 47 C.F.R.
§ 1.2110(b)(1)(i) & (b)(3)(iv)(B)). The other restriction – the 50%
Impermissible Relationship Rule – disqualified license applicants or licensees
for DE benefits “if they lease[d] or [resold] (including at wholesale) more
than 50% of their spectrum capacity” on an aggregate basis. Id. at 253 (citing
47 C.F.R. § 1.2110(b)(3)(iv)(A)).
The Commission also strengthened its unjust enrichment rule by
returning to a ten-year (rather than five-year) repayment period. Under the
Ten-Year Repayment Schedule, a DE that transferred its license to a non-DE
or otherwise lost eligibility for DE benefits at any time during the first ten
years of its license would have to repay some or all of its bidding credits. See
Council Tree III, 619 F.3d at 240-41 (citing 47 C.F.R. § 1.2111(d)(2)(i)).
On May 5, 2006, petitioners Council Tree and Bethel Native, along
with the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council (“MMTC”),
jointly filed a petition for expedited reconsideration of the DE Second Report
& Order. See Implementation of the Commercial Spectrum Enhancement Act
and Modernization of the Commission’s Competitive Bidding Rules and
Procedures, 21 FCC Rcd 6703, 6704 n.2 (2006) (“DE Reconsideration
Order”). Because a major auction (the Advanced Wireless Services
(“AWS”) auction, also known as “Auction 66”) was scheduled to commence
11

shortly thereafter, the Commission on its own motion issued an order on
reconsideration before the comment period on Council Tree’s reconsideration
petition had closed. In that order, the agency clarified certain aspects of the
new DE rules and addressed the issues raised by Council Tree’s
reconsideration petition. Id. at 6706-20 ¶¶ 7-44. But the FCC did not
formally grant or deny Council Tree’s reconsideration petition, which
3
remained pending until the agency denied it in March 2008.

C. Major Auctions Conducted Under the 2006 DE Rules

The FCC conducted two major spectrum license auctions while the
revised DE rules – including the 25% Attribution Rule, the 50%
Impermissible Relationship Rule, and the Ten-Year Repayment Schedule –
were in effect.
1. Auction 66 (the AWS Auction)
In 2006, the Commission held Auction 66 (the AWS auction). That
auction yielded “nearly $14 billion in winning bids.” Council Tree III, 619
F.3d at 248. DEs accounted for “57 of the 104 winning bidders” in Auction
66, “winning 20% of the individual licenses auctioned.” Id. Although non-

3 Implementation of the Commercial Spectrum Enhancement Act and
Modernization of the Commission’s Competitive Bidding Rules and
Procedures,
23 FCC Rcd 5425 (2008) (“DE Second Reconsideration
Order
”).
12

DEs won a substantial majority of the most expensive licenses, two DEs were
among the top ten winners in terms of dollar amount. Id.
2. Auction 73 (the 700 MHz Auction)
Auction 73, conducted in early 2008, involved reallocation of the 700
MHz spectrum that television broadcasters had relinquished in converting
from analog to digital broadcast format. In the notice of proposed rulemaking
to establish service rules for the 700 MHz spectrum in advance of Auction
73, the Commission sought comment, among other things, on whether “any
changes to Commission competitive bidding rules are necessary or desirable”
in connection with that auction. Service Rules for the 698-746, 747-762 and
777-792 MHz Bands, 21 FCC Rcd 9345, 9372 ¶ 56 (2006) (“700 MHz
Notice”). In its April 2007 700 MHZ First Report and Order, the FCC
determined that its “existing competitive bidding rules do not require
modification for purposes of an auction of commercial 700 MHz Band
licenses.” 22 FCC Rcd 8064 ¶ 6.
Noting the comments of Council Tree and others proposing various
revisions to the DE rules for Auction 73, see id. ¶¶ 59-61, the Commission
found that some of those proposals – such as adopting new DE set-asides –
“risk[ed] denying the licenses to other applicants that may be more likely to
use them effectively or efficiently for the benefit of consumers.” Id. ¶ 63.
13

The Commission determined, by contrast, that its recent experience applying
the DE rules in Auction 66 had demonstrated that those rules afford DEs
“substantial opportunity to compete with larger businesses for spectrum . . .
without any set-asides.” Ibid. Prior to the auction, the Commission did
waive the 50% Impermissible Relationship Rule with respect to one unique
license (the so-called D Block license), for which the 700 MHz service rules
had prescribed a Commission-approved Public/Private Partnership between
the winning bidder and a Commission-selected Public Safety Broadband
Licensee. D Block Waiver Order ¶¶ 1-2 (J.A. 6-7); see pp. 21-25, below.
Auction 73 “generated about $19 billion in winning bids.” Council
Tree III, 619 F.3d at 248. DEs in Auction 73 comprised 119 of 214 qualified
bidders, 56 of the 101 winners, and won 35% of the individual licenses. Ibid.
But no bidder – DE or otherwise – won the D Block license in Auction 73.
Because bidding for the D Block license “did not meet the applicable reserve
price of $1.33 billion” established by FCC rules, “there was no winning bid
for that license.” Service Rules for the 698-746, 747-762 and 777-792 MHz
14

Bands, 23 FCC Rcd 8047, 8049 ¶ 1 (2008) (“700 MHz Second Further
4
Notice”).

II.

PETITIONERS’ PRIOR JUDICIAL CHALLENGES TO
THE DE RULES AND THE AUCTIONS CONDUCTED
UNDER THEM

This case represents petitioners’ fourth attempt to challenge the
Commission’s 2006 DE rules and auctions conducted under them. Petitioners
previously sought judicial review twice in the Third Circuit and once in the
D.C. Circuit.

A. Council Tree’s Initial Judicial Challenge to the DE Rules

(Council Tree I)
On June 7, 2006, Council Tree, Bethel Native, and MMTC filed a
petition for review in the Third Circuit, challenging the DE Second Report &
Order, the DE Reconsideration Order, and a public notice regarding the

4 The Commission decided “not to re-offer the D Block license immediately
in order to provide additional time to consider options with respect to the D
Block spectrum.” 700 MHz Second Further Notice, 23 FCC Rcd at 8049 ¶ 1
(internal quotation marks omitted). In the 700 MHz Second Further Notice,
the Commission sought comment on possible modifications to the various
rules governing the D Block license, including the adoption of a rule that
would codify the waiver granted in the D Block Waiver Order. See id. at
8105-06 ¶¶ 166-67. The agency has yet to make any changes to the D Block
rules, and the D Block spectrum license remains unassigned.
15

5
timing of the AWS auction. Petitioners also asked the Third Circuit to stay
the FCC’s new DE rules and the upcoming AWS auction pending judicial
review on the merits. On June 29, 2006, the Third Circuit denied petitioners’
stay request, concluding that “[t]he public interest . . . militates strongly in
favor of letting the auction proceed without altering the rules of the game at
this late date.” Council Tree Commc’ns, Inc. v. FCC, No. 06-2943, slip op. at
6 (3d Cir. June 29, 2006). After briefing on the merits, the court, in
September 2007, dismissed the petition for review as “incurably premature,”
because petitioners had filed it (1) while their request for reconsideration of
the DE Second Report & Order was still pending before the FCC, and (2)

5 Although MMTC participated in the Third Circuit litigation, it has not
joined Council Tree and Bethel Native in the judicial challenge before this
Court.
16

before the DE Reconsideration Order had been published in the Federal
6
Register. Council Tree I, 503 F.3d at 287-91.

B. Council Tree II


Council Tree did not seek judicial review of the Commission’s
decision, in the 700 MHz First Report and Order, to apply the DE rules to
Auction 73. Instead, Council Tree attempted to obtain review of the
application of those rules to Auction 73 by challenging – this time in the D.C.
Circuit – the Commission’s August 2007 700 MHz Second Report and

6 Petitioners could have taken action to cure the jurisdictional impediments
that the Third Circuit ultimately identified (in advance of Auction 73) in its
September 2007 Council Tree I decision. Specifically, petitioners could
have: (1) eliminated the error of filing their petition for review of the DE
Reconsideration Order
before Federal Register publication by waiting one
week – from June 7, 2006 (when they filed their petition for review) until
June 14, 2006 (when the DE Reconsideration Order was published in the
Federal Register, at 71 Fed. Reg. 34272) – to file their petition for review;
and (2) eliminated the impediment caused by their pending administrative
reconsideration petition by withdrawing that petition prior to filing their
petition for review. See West Penn Power Co. v. EPA, 860 F.2d 581, 588 (3d
Cir. 1988) (court would have jurisdiction if West Penn’s “petition for
reconsideration is withdrawn” and West Penn “file[s] a new petition for
review”); Los Angeles Ltd. P’ship v. FCC, 70 F.3d 1358, 1360 (D.C. Cir.
1995) (time period for seeking judicial review “begins to run anew on
withdrawal by the petitioning party of its administrative petition for
reconsideration”).
17

7
Order, which had adopted additional service-specific rules (unrelated to the
DE rules) to govern the licenses that would be made available at Auction 73.
In an unpublished judgment, the D.C. Circuit dismissed Council Tree’s
second challenge as untimely. Council Tree II, 324 F. App’x at 4-5 (holding
that the 700 MHz Second Report and Order did not reopen the agency’s prior
determination that the DE rules did not require modification in connection
with the auction of 700 MHz Band licenses). See also Pet. Br. 25
(acknowledging that the D.C. Circuit’s Council Tree II decision “den[ied] a
challenge by Petitioners to the conduct of Auction 73, on grounds that the
August 2007 [order] . . . appealed by Petitioners in that case had not
‘reopened’ the initial April 2007 agency decision to apply the [DE rules] to
Auction 73”). Less than two months later, the D.C. Circuit denied Council
Tree’s petition for rehearing and rehearing en banc.

C. Council Tree III


After the FCC issued the March 2008 DE Second Reconsideration
Order formally denying Council Tree’s petition for reconsideration of the DE
Second Report & Order, petitioners filed a new petition for review of the DE
Second Report & Order in the Third Circuit. They contended that the DE

7 Service Rules for the 698-746, 747-762 and 777-792 MHz Bands, 22 FCC
Rcd 15289 (2007) (“700 MHz Second Report and Order”).
18

rules adopted in that order violated the Communications Act, were arbitrary
and capricious, and were issued in violation of the notice-and-comment
requirements of the APA. Not only did petitioners ask that the rules be
vacated; they also urged the court to unwind both the AWS (Auction 66) and
700 MHz (Auction 73) auctions and to order that those auctions be conducted
again without the allegedly offending DE rules.
The Third Circuit this time granted the petition in part and denied it in
part. Council Tree III, 619 F.3d at 248-59. The court rejected petitioners’
argument that the revised DE rules were inconsistent with the
Communications Act. It noted that, although the Act required that the FCC’s
rules allow for the “disseminat[ion] [of] licenses among a wide variety of
applicants, including small businesses [and] rural telephone companies,” the
statute also included other competing requirements. Id. at 249 n.7 (quoting
47 U.S.C. § 309(j)(3)(B)). The court went on to explain: “Given the general
agreement that the DE program can be abused, as well as the continuing
participation by DEs in auctions held under the new rules, we cannot
conclude that the FCC has failed to promote small-business participation at
all.” Id.
Turning to petitioners’ APA claims, the court reached different
conclusions for different rules. It upheld the 25% Attribution Rule, rejecting
19

petitioners’ notice-and-comment and arbitrary-and-capricious challenges to
that rule. Council Tree III, 619 F.3d at 251-53. With respect to the 50%
Impermissible Relationship Rule and the Ten-Year Repayment Schedule,
however, the court determined that the Commission had provided inadequate
8
notice under the APA. Id. at 253-56.
Despite that finding, the Third Circuit expressly declined petitioners’
request that the court “rescind Auctions 66 and 73.” Council Tree III, 619
F.3d at 257. It reasoned that rescission of those auctions “would involve
unwinding transactions worth more than $30 billion, upsetting what are likely
billions of dollars of additional investments made in reliance on the results,
and seriously disrupting existing or planned wireless service for untold
numbers of customers.” Id. Such potential “large-scale disruption in wireless
communications,” the court observed, “would have broad negative
implications for the public interest.” Id. The court further observed that
nothing in the record indicated that the winners of Auctions 66 and 73 “were
anything but innocent third parties in relation to the FCC’s improper
rulemaking.” Id. “Under these circumstances,” the Third Circuit concluded
that “it would be imprudent and unfair to order rescission of the auction

8 Having reached that conclusion, the court found it unnecessary to consider
petitioners’ further argument that those rules were arbitrary and capricious.
Id. at 255 n.8, 256 n.10.
20

results.” Id. at 258. Instead, the Third Circuit concluded that the appropriate
remedy for the APA notice violations was to vacate the defective rules,
leaving the auction results undisturbed. Id.
Petitioners sought Supreme Court review of Council Tree III. In their
petition for certiorari, they asserted that, once the Third Circuit ruled that two
of the challenged DE rules violated the APA, it was obligated to rescind
9
Auctions 66 and 73. The Supreme Court denied certiorari on March 28,
2011. Council Tree Investors, Inc. v. FCC, 131 S. Ct. 1784.

III. THE D BLOCK WAIVER PROCEEDING

When the Commission granted the limited waiver of the 50%
Impermissible Relationship Rule for the Auction 73 D Block license in
November 2007, see p. 14, above, the agency predicated that waiver on “the
unique circumstances and obligations of the D Block license.” D Block
Waiver Order ¶ 7 (J.A. 9). In particular, the Commission observed that the D
Block service rules required that licensee to “construct[] and operat[e] a
nationwide, interoperable broadband network . . . to provide both a
commercial service and a broadband network service to public safety

9 Council Tree Petition for a Writ of Certiorari, S.Ct. No. 10-834, 2010 WL
5323991 at *19 - *23, *26 - *28 (Dec. 22, 2010).
21

10
entities.” D Block Waiver Order ¶ 9 (J.A. 10). Because those unique
circumstances were inapplicable to other Auction 73 licenses, the
Commission stressed that the “waiver applies only to arrangements for
spectrum capacity on the D Block.” D Block Waiver Order ¶ 7 (J.A. 9). The
agency took no action to revisit or disturb the normal operation of the new
DE rules outside that limited circumstance.
On December 7, 2007, the last day for filing such a request, petitioners
asked the Commission to reconsider the D Block Waiver Order. Petitioners
noted that they currently were “seeking the rescission of [the new DE] rules
in a pending case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.”

10 The Commission explained that the D Block license would be subject to
extraordinary regulatory oversight conditions not applicable to other
licensees:
The single nationwide 10-megahertz D Block commercial
license will be awarded to a winning bidder only after it
enters into a Commission-approved Network Sharing
Agreement (“NSA”) . . . . Reflecting the importance of
the terms of the NSA to the public interest, we provided that
the Commission will oversee the negotiation of the NSA, and
will play an active role in the resolution of disputes among
the relevant parties . . . . These licensing obligations subject
the D Block licensee to unique requirements, including
significant Commission oversight and coordination, in order to
assure that it participates in the provision of extensive,
uninterrupted public safety and commercial service for the
benefit of the public.

D Block Waiver Order ¶ 2 (citations omitted) (J.A. 7).
22

Council Tree Petition for Reconsideration, December 7, 2007, Summary (J.A.
31). In petitioners’ view, however, the D Block Waiver Order created “new
problems of its own.” Id. In particular, they complained that the
Commission’s “selective waiver approach” would result in improper
“disparate treatment of similarly situated DEs.” Id. at 8, 11 (J.A. 40, 43).
Accordingly, petitioners argued that the D Block Waiver Order “should be
reconsidered and rescinded.” Id. at 14 (J.A. 46); see also Council Tree
Reply to Opposition, Jan. 2, 2008, at 10 (“Reply to Opposition”) (J.A. 98)
(repeating request that D Block Waiver Order “should be reconsidered and
rescinded).
When Auction 73 concluded, no party had submitted a bid for the D
Block license that met the applicable reserve price of $1.33 billion – which
meant that there was no winning bid for that license. 700 MHz Second
Further Notice, 23 FCC Rcd at 8049 ¶ 1. Rather than seek immediately to re-
auction that license, the agency decided to seek comment on possible changes
to the various rules governing the D Block. Id. at 8049 ¶ 1, 8105-06 ¶¶ 166-
67. In the meantime, petitioners’ request to “reconsider[] and rescind[]” the
D Block Waiver Order remained pending.
On May 18, 2011 – following the Supreme Court’s denial of their
petition for writ of certiorari in Council Tree III – petitioners filed a
23

“supplement” to their petition for reconsideration. This submission – which
was filed more than three years after both the close of Auction 73 and the
deadline for seeking reconsideration – sought to “[r]efashion[]” the relief that
petitioners requested in their original reconsideration petition. Supplement to
Council Tree Petition for Reconsideration, May 18, 2011, at 4 (“May 2011
Supplement”) (J.A. 103). In the May 2011 Supplement, petitioners argued
for the first time that the Commission should respond to their reconsideration
petition by “vacat[ing] the results of Auction 73.” Id. at 9 (J.A. 108).
On February 1, 2012 – having been directed by this Court to provide a
11
timetable for action on petitioners’ reconsideration petition – the
Commission issued the Waiver Reconsideration Order. In that order, the
Commission dismissed Council Tree’s petition for reconsideration of the D
Block Waiver Order. The agency explained that because “‘[t]he very essence
of waiver is the assumed validity of the general rule,’” the Third Circuit’s
intervening vacatur of the 50% Impermissible Relationship Rule rendered
moot the petitioners’ request for reconsideration of the Commission waiver of
that rule. Waiver Reconsideration Order ¶ 4 & n.11 (J.A. 13) (quoting WAIT
Radio v. FCC, 418 F.2d 1153, 1157-58 (D.C. Cir. 1969)).

11 In re Council Tree Investors, Inc. and Bethel Native Corp., Order, No.
11-9569, Document: 01018771560 (10th Cir. Jan. 4, 2012).
24

The Commission also denied petitioners’ motion for leave to file their
May 2011 Supplement, and accordingly dismissed that supplement. Waiver
Reconsideration Order ¶ 4 (J.A. 13-14). The Commission noted that its rules
require that a “‘petition for reconsideration and any supplement thereto shall
be filed within 30 days from the date of public notice of the final Commission
action’” with respect to which reconsideration is sought. Id. ¶ 4 n.12 (J.A.
13-14) (quoting 47 C.F.R. § 1.106(f)). By contrast, petitioners had untimely
proffered their reconsideration supplement “more than three and a half years
after release of the D Block Waiver Order.” Id. ¶ 4 (J.A. 13-14). Moreover,
the Commission ruled, petitioners’ supplement sought substantially to expand
the scope of the relief sought from rescission of the limited D Block waiver
granted in the D Block Waiver Order to complete rescission of the results of
Auction 73. Id. ¶ 4 n.12 (J.A. 13-14). The Commission stressed that the
petitioners’ rationale for that result – that Auction 73 had been conducted
under unlawful DE rules – could have (and should have) been presented in a
challenge to the April 2007 700 MHz First Report and Order. The subject
was beyond the scope of the D Block Waiver Order, however, which had not
reopened the issue. Ibid. Accordingly, the Commission declined to exercise
whatever discretion it might have to consider the late-file pleading. Ibid.
This petition for review followed.
25

SUMMARY OF ARGUMENT

1. Although petitioners seek to use this proceeding as a vehicle to set
aside Auction 73 (a result they have repeatedly and unsuccessfully sought in
multiple litigations), the validity of Auction 73 is not before the Court.
Rather, the only question properly presented in this case is whether the
Commission reasonably dismissed petitioners’ request for reconsideration
and rescission of the limited waiver of the 50% Impermissible Relationship
Rule that the Commission granted in the D Block Waiver Order with respect
to the specialized D Block license. Because the D Block license was never
awarded and the 50% Impermissible Relationship Rule was subsequently
vacated, the Commission properly determined that petitioners’ challenge to
the D Block Waiver Order was moot. Waiver Reconsideration Order ¶ 4
(J.A. 13-14). It also was well within the Commission’s discretion to dismiss
as untimely the reconsideration “supplement” petitioners filed more than
three and a half years after the applicable filing deadline specified in the
Commission’s rules.
2. This Court lacks jurisdiction to consider petitioners’ request that it
rescind the results of Auction 73 on the ground that the auction was
conducted under two DE rules that have since been vacated. Petitioners
acknowledge that the decision to apply those now-vacated DE rules to
26

Auction 73 was made in 2007 in the 700 MHz First Report and Order and
that petitioners previously failed to obtain review of that decision. Pet. Br.
25. The statutory 60-day period for obtaining review of that decision has
now long since passed. 28 U.S.C. § 2344. Neither the D Block Waiver Order
nor the Waiver Reconsideration Order took any action to “reopen” that
decision so as to provide a new filing window in which to seek judicial
review.
3. Even if petitioners’ challenge to the conduct of Auction 73 under
the DE rules were timely, it would be barred by principles of claim
preclusion. In Council Tree III, the Third Circuit considered and rejected on
the merits the same claim brought by the same parties – i.e., the claim that the
results of Auction 73 should be rescinded because the auction was conducted
under invalid rules. See Council Tree III, 619 F.3d at 257-58. Petitioners are
precluded from relitigating that claim in this Court.
4. Finally, even if the Court had jurisdiction to reach the results of
Auction 73 and petitioners’ challenge were not otherwise barred, the Court
still would retain – and should exercise – the discretion to reject petitioners’
request to impose the extraordinarily disruptive remedy of rescission.
Contrary to petitioners’ argument, this Court has not ruled that 5 U.S.C.
§ 706(2) requires it to vacate all agency action that does not meet the
27

standards of that section. See Qwest Corp. v. FCC, 258 F.3d 1191, 1205,
1207 (10th Cir. 2001), clarified by Order (10th Cir. Aug. 27, 2001)
(remanding without vacating FCC rules).

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Petitioners bear a high burden to establish that the D Block Waiver
Order and Waiver Reconsideration Order are “arbitrary, capricious, [or] an
abuse of discretion.” 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A). Under this highly deferential
standard, “[a]n agency’s action is entitled to a presumption of validity, and
the burden is upon the petitioner to establish the action is arbitrary or
capricious.” Sorenson Commc’ns, Inc. v. FCC, 567 F.3d 1215, 1221 (10th
Cir. 2009). The Court must affirm unless the Commission failed to consider
relevant factors or made a clear error in judgment. See, e.g., Motor Vehicle
Mfrs. Ass’n of the United States, Inc. v. State Farm Mutual Auto. Ins. Co.,
463 U.S. 29, 43 (1983).

ARGUMENT

I.

THE COMMISSION REASONABLY DISMISSED
PETITIONERS’ RECONSIDERATION PETITION AS
MOOT AND THEIR “SUPPLEMENT” AS UNTIMELY.

The November 2007 D Block Waiver Order granted a limited waiver of
the 50% Impermissible Relationship Rule with respect to the D Block license
in Auction 73. D Block Waiver Order ¶ 1 (J.A. 6). The relief petitioners
sought in their December 2007 petition for reconsideration was that the D
28

Block Waiver Order be “reconsidered and rescinded.” Reconsideration
Petition at 14 (J.A. 46). When Auction 73 was concluded in March 2008, the
D Block license addressed in the D Block Waiver Order was not issued,
because no bidder met the applicable reserve price for that license. 700 MHz
Second Further Notice, 23 FCC Rcd at 8049 ¶ 1. And the Third Circuit in
Council Tree III ultimately vacated the rule that the D Block Waiver Order
had waived. Council Tree III, 619 F.3d at 259. In those circumstances, the
Commission properly dismissed Council Tree’s reconsideration petition as
moot: The petition sought to rescind the waiver of a rule that no longer
existed, for a license that was never issued. Waiver Reconsideration Order
¶ 4 & n.11 (citing WAIT Radio v. FCC, 418 F.2d at 1157-58 (“the very
essence of waiver is the assumed validity of the general rule . . . .”)). See Rio
Grande Silvery Minnow v. Bureau of Reclamation, 601 F.3d 1096, 1111-12
(10th Cir. 2010) (dismissing as moot challenge to agency conduct under
superseded rules).
Petitioners’ brief presents no legal argument against the only thing the
FCC did in the D Block Waiver Order i.e., grant a limited waiver of the
50% Impermissible Relationship Rule with respect to the D Block license.
Petitioners have thus waived any argument that the D Block Waiver Order
was itself arbitrary and capricious. See Morris v. Noe, 672 F.3d 1185, 1193
29

(10th Cir. 2012) (“argument insufficiently raised in the opening brief is
deemed waived”).
Petitioners instead challenge the Commission’s mootness ruling in the
Waiver Reconsideration Order. They do so, however, only by
mischaracterizing the issue that was presented to the agency in their
reconsideration petition. Ignoring their prayer for rescission of the D Block
12
Waiver Order – which would have left all of the DE rules in place for the D
Block – petitioners assert that they had asked the Commission in the waiver
proceeding to suspend the new DE rules for all licenses covered by Auction
73. Br. 45 & n.96. But the Commission’s mootness ruling correctly held
petitioners to their prayer for relief, concluding that the “original petition
sought reconsideration of only the Commission’s decision to waive the [50%
Impermissible Relationship Rule]” for the D Block license. Waiver
Reconsideration Order ¶ 4 n.12 (J.A. 13-14).
Nor was it arbitrary for the Commission to dismiss Council Tree’s May
2011 “supplement,” by which petitioners attempted to expand the scope of
the waiver proceeding from one addressing a narrow waiver of one DE rule
for one Auction 73 license, to a proceeding challenging the results of Auction
73 in its entirety. May 2011 Supplement at 4-9 (J.A. 103-08); see id at 4

12 See Petition for Reconsideration at 14 (J.A. 46).
30

(J.A. 103) (describing the supplement as “Refashion[ing] the Requested
Relief”); Waiver Reconsideration Order ¶ 4 n.12 (J.A. 13-14) (finding that
the supplement “go[es] beyond the scope of the underlying order” and
“seek[s] to expand substantially the scope of the relief sought in the
reconsideration petition”). Given the Commission’s well-established
discretion to define the scope of its own proceedings, the agency would have
been entirely within its rights to reject the supplement as beyond the scope of
13
the narrow D Block waiver proceeding, even if it had been timely filed.
In fact, however, the supplement was “filed more than three and a half
years after release of the D Block Waiver Order,” in clear violation of the
normal 30-day window for filing reconsideration and related pleadings.
Waiver Reconsideration Order ¶ 4 & n.12 (J.A. 13-14) (emphasis added)
(citing 47 C.F.R. § 1.106(f), which requires that “[t]he petition for
reconsideration and any supplement thereto shall be filed within 30 days from
the date of public notice of the final Commission action”). Although the
agency “has some discretion to consider late-filed supplements to timely filed
petitions,” Waiver Reconsideration Order ¶ 4 n.12 (J.A. 13-14), courts have

13 See FCC v. Pottsville Broadcasting Co., 309 U.S. 134, 138 (1940)
(stating that “subordinate questions of procedure,” including “scope of the
inquiry,” are “explicitly and by implication left to the Commission’s own
devising, so long . . . as it observes the basic requirements designed for the
protection of private as well as public interest”) (citing 47 U.S.C. § 154(j)).
31

repeatedly “discouraged the Commission from accepting late petitions in the
absence of extremely unusual circumstances.” 21st Century Telesis Joint
Venture v. FCC, 318 F.3d 192, 199-200 (D.C. Cir. 2003) (affirming FCC’s
failure to consider supplemental filings that were untimely under Rule
1.106(f)); see also NetworkIP, LLC v. FCC, 548 F.3d 116, 126-27 (D.C. Cir.
2008) (setting aside FCC decision to accept late-filed pleadings absent
“unusual or compelling circumstances”).
The supplement raised issues beyond the scope of the existing waiver
proceeding. Moreover, petitioners themselves had failed to take advantage of
a prior opportunity to obtain review of the application of the DE rules to
Auction 73 (i.e., through a challenge to the 700 MHz First Report and
Order). In those circumstances, the Commission was entirely justified in
14
declining to consider petitioners’ untimely supplement.

II.

THIS COURT LACKS JURISDICTION TO CONSIDER
PETITIONERS’ CHALLENGE TO THE CONDUCT OF
AUCTION 73 UNDER THE NOW-VACATED DE RULES.

Although petitioners nominally seek review of the D Block Waiver
Order and the Waiver Reconsideration Order, the real focus of their

14 Waiver Reconsideration Order ¶ 4 n.12 (J.A. 13-14) (citing Alpine PCS,
Inc., Requests for Waiver, 25 FCC Rcd 469, 479-80 ¶ 16 nn.90 & 91 (2010)
(declining to accept late filed supplements under Rule 1.106(f) where they
attempted to expand the scope of issues and could have been presented
earlier)).
32

challenge is the application of the now-vacated DE rules to Auction 73. They
seek “nullification of FCC spectrum Auction 73” because it was conducted
pursuant to those vacated rules. Pet. Br. 3; see also id. at 25-26, 36-37. This
Court lacks jurisdiction to consider that claim. The decision to apply the DE
rules in the 700 MHz auction was not made in either the D Block Waiver
Order or the Waiver Reconsideration Order on review here. Rather, that
action was taken in the 700 MHz First Report and Order issued in April
2007. The time for challenging that order has long since passed. See 47
U.S.C. § 402(a); 28 U.S.C. § 2344 (requiring petitions for review of FCC
orders to be filed within 60 days after issuance); Charter Commc’ns, Inc. v.
FCC, 460 F.3d 31, 38 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (“a petitioner’s failure to file within
[the 60-day statutory window] constitutes a bar to our review”).
Petitioners acknowledge that the decision to apply the DE rules to
Auction 73 was made in the 700 MHz First Report and Order. Pet. Br. 25,
28. They further acknowledge that the D.C. Circuit previously rejected their
attempt to challenge the application of the DE rules to that auction, because
petitioners had mistakenly sought review of the 700 MHz Second Report and
Order instead of the 700 MHz First Report and Order. See Pet. Br. 25
(noting D.C. Circuit decision “denying a challenge by Petitioners to the
conduct of Auction 73, on grounds that the August 2007 [700 MHz Second
33

Report and Order] appealed by Petitioners in that case had not ‘reopened’ the
initial April 2007 agency decision to apply the [DE] Rules to Auction 73”).
Petitioners argue, however, that the D Block Waiver Order “reopen[ed] the
question of how [the agency] would apply the new DE rules to Auction 73,”
thus providing petitioners with a new opportunity to challenge Auction 73.
Pet. Br. 29. That claim is baseless.
At least in the rulemaking context, a party may obtain review after the
initial 60-day filing window has passed if it is “clear from the administrative
record” in a subsequent proceeding that the agency intended to “reopen” the
substantive question on which review is sought. Biggerstaff v. FCC, 511
F.3d 178, 185 (D.C. Cir. 2007). Thus, “if an agency in the course of a
rulemaking proceeding solicits comments on a pre-existing regulation or
otherwise indicates its willingness to reconsider such a regulation by inviting
and responding to comments, then a new review period is triggered.”
Kennecott Utah Copper Corp. v. Dep’t of Interior, 88 F.3d 1191, 1213 (D.C.
Cir. 1996). However, “an agency [does not] reopen an issue by responding to
a comment that addresses a settled aspect of some matter, even if the agency
had solicited comments on unsettled aspects of the same matter.” Biggerstaff,
511 F.3d at 186 (internal quotation omitted). The reopening doctrine thus
does not provide “a license for bootstrapping procedures by which petitioners
34

can comment on matters other than those actually at issue, goad an agency
into a reply, and then sue on grounds that the agency had re-opened the
issue.” Kennecott Utah Copper, 88 F.3d at 1213 (internal quotation omitted)
(construing narrowly the “‘reopening rule’” of Ohio v. EPA, 838 F.2d 1325
(D.C. Cir. 1988)). Compare Pet. Br. 32 (citing Ohio v. EPA).
This Court has not directly decided whether to adopt the D.C. Circuit’s
“reopener doctrine,” but its own articulation of whether a subsequent order
reflects a “sufficient degree of separateness, novelty, and finality” to trigger
another opportunity for judicial review covers essentially the same ground.
HRI, Inc. v. EPA, 198 F.3d 1224, 1238 & n.8 (10th Cir. 2000). Thus, the
Court looks to whether a subsequent order “reconsidered or revisited” an
earlier decision or, stated differently, “whether it represents a new decision or
merely a reaffirmance of previous action.” Id. at 1238.
The orders on review did not “reconsider[]” or “revisit[]” the
Commission’s prior decision to apply the DE rules to Auction 73 generally.
Rather, those orders involved the waiver of one DE rule with respect to one
license that was never awarded. Thus, review of those orders provides no
jurisdictional basis to seek rescission of any license award, much less the
award of billions of dollars worth of licenses outside the scope of the D Block
waiver.
35

Petitioners contend (Br. 16, 29 n.66) that the Commission reopened the
application of the DE rules generally by adopting a “new,” “D Block
Uniqueness” rationale for the conduct of Auction 73. See pp. 21-22, above.
But that rationale did not provide a new justification for the application of the
DE rules to Auction 73 as a whole. Rather it explained why a limited waiver
of the 50% Impermissible Relationship Rule was warranted for the highly
specialized D Block license.
The same is true of the D Block Waiver Order’s references to the
continued application of the DE rules outside the limited contours of the D
Block waiver. See Pet. Br. 16 n.36. Those references do not revisit and re-
justify the application of the DE rules to Auction 73. Rather, they make clear
that – the D Block waiver aside – application of the DE rules to Auction 73
otherwise remained untouched. See D Block Waiver Order ¶¶ 7-10 (J.A. 9-
11).
The facts of this case are wholly unlike those at issue in this Court’s
HRI v. EPA decision, upon which petitioners rely. See Pet. Br. 30-31. HRI
involved a jurisdictional dispute between the EPA and New Mexico’s
environmental agency with respect to implementation of the Safe Drinking
Water Act. In 1993, the EPA had ruled that a parcel of land was “Indian
country” outside of the state’s jurisdiction. HRI, 198 F.3d at 1237. In 1997,
36

the EPA issued a second ruling with respect to the same parcel. That further
decision stated that although the agency “believes” the land is Indian country,
it would retain jurisdiction (and deny the state permitting authority) under its
distinct “authority to issue permits on disputed lands.” Ibid. (emphasis
added). The EPA continued that its “decision to treat the status of [the
parcel] as in dispute does not require [New Mexico] to concede jurisdiction,
nor does it grant the Navajo Nation jurisdiction.” Id. at 1237-38. “Rather,”
the EPA stated, it “has determined only that there is a dispute such that [the]
EPA will issue the permit until the status of [the parcel] is resolved.” Id. at
1238. On these facts, this Court held that the 1997 ruling “reopen[ed]” the
jurisdictional status of the land “for review,” id. at 1237, because it had
“reconsidered or revisited” the 1993 decision to treat the parcel as “Indian
country” and issued a new decision to treat it as “in dispute,” id. at 1238.
In contrast to the EPA’s decision to revise the jurisdictional status of
the land in HRI, the D Block Waiver Order and Waiver Reconsideration
Order did not revisit or alter the status of the DE rules with respect to
Auction 73 generally. Rather, the Commission simply waived one rule with
regard to one license. Those orders thus do not provide petitioners a renewed
opportunity to seek an across-the-board rescission of the licenses granted in

the auction.
37

Moreover, their contrary assertions notwithstanding (Pet. Br. 36 &
n.78), petitioners did not even ask the Commission to reopen the application
15
of the DE rules to Auction 73 generally in their reconsideration petition.
Rather, petitioners noted that they were seeking rescission of the DE rules in
another forum – the judicial proceedings before the Third Circuit. Council
Tree Reconsideration Petition, Summary (J.A. 31). Although petitioners
asserted that the rationale for the waiver logically undermined the basis for
the 50% Impermissible Relationship Rule in its entirety, id. at 7-11 (J.A. 39-
43), the only relief Council Tree sought in its reconsideration petition was
that the D Block Waiver Order be “reconsidered and rescinded,” not that it be
expanded. Id. at 14 (J.A. 46); accord Council Tree Reply to Opposition at 10
(J.A. 98). That limited request for relief followed logically from petitioners’
contention that the purported “selective waiver approach” undertaken in the D
Block Waiver Order created “new problems of its own” – i.e., “disparate

15 Petitioners would not have had the power, had they asked for such relief
in their reconsideration petition and related pleadings, unilaterally to reopen
for review the conduct of Auction 73 pursuant to the DE rules. As discussed
above, the Commission defined the scope of the waiver proceeding in the D
Block
Waiver Order, and that scope did not involve a general reopening of
the conduct of Auction 73 under the DE rules. The determination to so limit
the scope of the proceeding was firmly within the agency’s well-established
discretion. See FCC v. Pottsville Broadcasting Co., 309 U.S. at 138
(affirming agency discretion regarding “scope of . . . inquiry”).
38

treatment of similarly situated DEs.” Reconsideration Petition at Summary,
8, 11 (J.A. 31, 40, 43).
It was not until petitioners filed their May 2011 “supplement” that they
asked the Commission to reopen the application of the DE rules to Auction
73 and requested that the agency “vacate the results of Auction 73.” May
2011 Supplement at 9 (J.A. 108). But that procedurally improper filing was,
as the Commission determined, both untimely and beyond the scope of the
proceeding. Waiver Reconsideration Order ¶ 4 & n.12 (J.A. 13-14).

III. PETITIONERS’ REQUEST TO RESCIND AUCTION 73 IS

BARRED BY COUNCIL TREE III

.
Even if petitioners’ challenge to the conduct of Auction 73 under the
DE rules were timely (and thus within this Court’s jurisdiction to review), it
16
nevertheless would be barred by principles of claim preclusion. That is so
because the Third Circuit in Council Tree III considered and rejected on the
merits the same claim, brought by the same parties. Petitioners Council Tree
and Bethel Native in that case unsuccessfully claimed that the results of
Auction 73 should be rescinded because the auction was conducted pursuant
to the now-vacated 50% Impermissible Relationship Rule and the Ten-Year

16 See Natural Res. Def. Council v. EPA, 513 F.3d 257, 260 (D.C. Cir.
2008) (noting “a possible difficulty with EPA’s timeliness” defense, but
holding that petitioner’s challenge to an EPA rule was nevertheless barred by
claim preclusion).
39

Repayment Schedule. Petitioners are barred from relitigating that claim
before this Court.
“Under Tenth Circuit law,” the elements of claim preclusion are: “(1) a
final judgment on the merits in an earlier action; (2) identity of the parties in
the two suits; and (3) identity of the cause of action in both suits.” MACTEC,
Inc. v. Gorelick, 427 F.3d 821, 831 (10th Cir. 2005). Claim preclusion
follows in these circumstances “unless the party seeking to avoid preclusion
did not have a ‘full and fair opportunity’ to litigate the claim in the prior
suit.” Ibid. (internal citation omitted). Each of these criteria is met in this
case.
First, the Council Tree III decision is a final judgment on the merits. In
that decision, having found that the 50% Impermissible Relationship Rule
and the Ten-Year Repayment Schedule were adopted with inadequate APA
notice, the court expressly addressed the proper remedy. The court observed
that petitioners “urge not only that we vacate the rules . . . , but also that we
exercise our equitable authority to rescind Auctions 66 and 73.” 619 F.3d at
257. The Third Circuit assumed that it had jurisdiction to reach the conduct
of the auctions, but expressly declined “to order rescission of the auction
40

17
results.” Id. at 258. The Supreme Court subsequently denied petitioners’
petition for certiorari seeking to review the Third Circuit’s judgment.
Council Tree Investors, Inc. v. FCC, 131 S. Ct. 1784.
Second, petitioners in this case (Council Tree and Bethel Native
Corporation) also were petitioners in Council Tree III, and the FCC and
United States were respondents in both cases. Accordingly, as relevant here,
there was “identity of the parties in the two suits.” MACTEC, 427 F.3d at
18
831.
Third, there is “identity of the cause of action in both suits.” Ibid. This
Court employs the “‘transactional approach’ found in the Restatement
(Second) of Judgments § 24” in determining what constitutes a “cause of
action” for claim preclusion purposes. MACTEC, 427 F.3d at 832; accord
Yapp v. Excel Corp., 186 F.3d 1222, 1227 (10th Cir. 1999). The Restatement
describes “the concept of a transaction” in this context as “a natural grouping
or common nucleus of operative facts.” Restatement (Second) of Judgments §

17 The Council Tree III court noted that the FCC and others had contested
its jurisdiction to reach the auctions themselves. The court declined to rule
directly on that claim, 619 F.3d at 257 n.12, but its analysis rejecting
petitioners’ rescission request logically assumes, for purposes of that analysis,
that it would have had jurisdiction to unwind the auction.
18 Between the time the Third Circuit decided Council Tree III and the
Supreme Court denied certiorari in that case, Council Tree Communications,
Inc. changed its name to Council Tree Investors, Inc.
41

24 cmt b (1982). “What constitutes the same transaction or series of
transactions is ‘to be determined pragmatically, giving weight to such
considerations as whether the facts are related in time, space, origin, or
motivation, whether they form a convenient trial unit.’” Yapp, 186 F.3d at
19
1227 (quoting Restatement (Second) of Judgments § 24). Where, as here,
the two cases involve the same cause of action, a final judgment on the merits
in the first case “precludes the parties or their privies from relitigating issues
that were or could have been raised in that action.” Id. at 1226 n.4 (internal
quotation omitted) (emphasis added); accord MACTEC, 427 F.3d at 831.
The Council Tree III case and this case share the same claim – that the
conduct of Auction 73 pursuant to the 50% Impermissible Relationship Rule
and the Ten-Year Repayment Schedule was unlawful and must be rescinded.
From the outset of the Council Tree III proceedings, petitioners attempted to
challenge not only the promulgation of those rules, but also the conduct of
spectrum license auctions under them. Thus, in their April 7, 2008 petition
for review in Council Tree III, petitioners “request[ed] that [the Third Circuit]

19 The transactional test is variously articulated as “focus[ing] upon whether
the two suits are both based upon a discrete and unitary factual occurrence,”
whether both suits “depend upon the same operative nucleus of fact,” whether
“two claims are based on the same, or nearly the same, factual allegations,” or
whether “the two suits seek to redress the same injury.” Yapp, 186 F.3d at
1227 (internal quotations omitted).
42

grant this Petition for Review, declare unlawful, reverse, vacate, and set aside
the FCC [DE Rulemaking] Orders, [and] vacate the results of spectrum
auctions . . . conducted pursuant to the rules unlawfully adopted and affirmed
in those FCC Orders.” Petition for Review, No. 08-2036, at 5 (3d Cir. April
7, 2008) (copy attached hereto as Exhibit 1). In their opening merits brief in
Council Tree III, petitioners argued that “[a]uction results are necessarily
vulnerable to timely legal challenges to defective rules which played an
essential role in producing those very auction results.” Supplemental Brief of
Petitioners, No. 08-2036, at 33 (3d Cir. Aug. 11, 2008), available at 2008
WL 4574157 (3d Cir. 2008). And petitioners argued in their reply brief that
“auction overturn is the only meaningful remedy” in the case. Supplemental
Reply Brief of Petitioners, No. 08-2036, at 20 (3d Cir. Oct. 20, 2008),
available at 2008 WL 5148981 (3d Cir. 2008) (emphasis added).
Petitioners focus their current challenge to the D Block Waiver Order
and Waiver Reconsideration Order on the same claim. Specifically, they
challenge the “conduct[] [of] Auction 73 with the unlawfully adopted rules in
43

20
place.” Pet. Br. 4. The Third Circuit addressed and rejected that claim in
Council Tree III when it declined to set aside the results of Auction 73,
notwithstanding that the auction was conducted pursuant to the since-vacated
50% Impermissible Relationship Rule and the Ten-Year Repayment
Schedule. 619 F.3d at 257-59.
Petitioners are in no position to argue that they were denied a “‘full and
fair opportunity’ to litigate the claim in the prior suit.” MACTEC, 427 F.3d at
831 (internal citation omitted). As noted above (pp. 18-21), not only did they
strenuously present their claim to the Third Circuit; they also made the claim
to the Supreme Court in their unsuccessful petition for a writ of certiorari.
In sum, petitioners are barred by principles of claim preclusion from
relitigating here the same cause of action that the Third Circuit rejected on the
merits. There is nothing remotely unfair about that result. MACTEC, 427
F.3d at 831. Indeed, as the Third Circuit properly stressed, rescinding
Auction 73 would “involve unwinding transactions worth [billions of
dollars], upsetting what are likely billions of dollars of additional investments

20 Accord id. at 37 (challenging as “unlawful agency action” the “FCC’s
conduct of Auction 73” while “adher[ing] to the Unlawful Rules”); id at 38-
40 (advocating “[t]he simple proposition that the conduct of a spectrum
auction pursuant to indisputably unlawful rules is itself unlawful agency
action”); id. at 49 (asking “how can the FCC’s Auction 73, conducted
pursuant to the Unlawful Rules survive?”); id. at 51 (requesting that the Court
“set aside the conduct and results of Auction 73”).
44

made in reliance on the results, and seriously disrupting existing or planned
wireless service for untold numbers of customers.” Council Tree III, 619
F.3d at 257. Those adverse consequences for “innocent third parties” (ibid.)
would surely be even greater today – two years further down the road to full
deployment.

IV.

APA SECTION 706(2) WOULD NOT REQUIRE
RESCISSION OF AUCTION 73 EVEN IF THE RESULTS
OF THAT AUCTION WERE PROPERLY BEFORE THE
COURT.

Even if the conduct of Auction 73 pursuant to now-vacated rules were
properly before the Court in this case (and it is not), petitioners are mistaken
in claiming that section 706(2) of the APA, 5 U.S.C. § 706(2), requires this
Court to rescind that auction. Although the APA provides that reviewing
courts “shall . . . set aside” agency action that does not meet the standards set
forth in section 706(2), the Supreme Court has recognized that such language
does not, without more, limit a court’s traditional discretion to structure
equitable remedies. See Hecht Co. v. Bowles, 321 U.S. 321, 328-30 (1944).
That is so because courts ordinarily are “not mechanically obligated to grant
[equitable relief] for every violation of law,” but instead retain the authority
to “mould each decree to the necessities of the particular case.” Weinberger
v. Romero-Barcelo, 456 U.S. 305, 312-13 (1982).
45


Vacatur is an equitable remedy. See U.S. Bancorp Mortg. Co. v.
Bonner Mall P’ship, 513 U.S. 18, 25 (1994). It is well settled that limits on
the judiciary’s equitable discretion are not lightly presumed, see Romero-
Barcelo, 456 U.S. at 313, and that “the bare fact” of a legal shortcoming does
not compel injunctive relief, id. at 314. A court retains the authority to grant
or withhold equitable remedies “[u]nless a statute in so many words, or by a
necessary and inescapable inference, restricts the court’s jurisdiction in
equity.” Id. at 313 (quoting Porter v. Warner Holding Co., 328 U.S. 395, 398
(1946)); accord Hecht, 321 U.S. at 329-30.

The language in section 706(2) providing that reviewing courts “shall
. . . set aside” unlawful agency action is insufficient to displace the courts’
equitable discretion to remand an agency’s order without vacating it. In
Hecht, the Court considered a provision of the Emergency Price Control Act
of 1942, ch. 26, 56 Stat. 23 (50 U.S.C. app. 901 et seq.), that stated that, if a
statutory violation had occurred or would occur, “a permanent or temporary
injunction, restraining order, or other order shall be granted.” 321 U.S. at
322. The Court explained that the phrase “shall be granted” was “less
mandatory than a literal reading might suggest.” Id. at 328. The Court
construed the phrase not to impose “an absolute duty” to issue compliance
46

orders “under any and all circumstances,” but rather to grant authority to the
courts to issue all appropriate equitable remedies. Id. at 329.
As in Hecht, Congress used the term “shall” in section 706(2) in a “less
mandatory” sense to describe the scope of the courts’ authority in reviewing
agency actions. That reading is well supported by the text of the statute.
First, the last clause of section 706 itself directs the reviewing court to take
“due account” of “the rule of prejudicial error.” 5 U.S.C. § 706. That clause
– which applies to cases, such as this one, in which the Third Circuit did not
foreclose the agency from reaching the same result on remand – is flatly
inconsistent with a reading of the “shall . . . set aside” language that would
impose a rigid duty to vacate all agency orders that suffer from procedural
21
defects or deficient explanations but are not ultra vires.
Moreover, the Hobbs Act, which provides the basis, if any, for this
Court’s jurisdiction in this case, specifically authorizes reviewing courts not

21 Reading section 706(2) to leave undisturbed a reviewing court’s
traditional discretion to decline to vacate a deficient agency action in all
circumstances also finds support in the Attorney General’s Manual on the
APA. The Manual states that the language currently codified in Section
706(2) simply “restate[s] the scope of the judicial function in reviewing final
agency action” and notes, consistent with Hecht, that “[c]ourts having
jurisdiction have always exercised the power in appropriate cases to set aside
agency action” that has been determined to be unlawful. United States Dep’t
of Justice, Attorney General’s Manual on the Administrative Procedure Act
108 (1947) (emphasis added).
47

only to “set aside” agency actions, but also to “suspend” them “in whole or in
part.” 28 U.S.C. § 2342. As one legal scholar has observed, “[i]f the APA is
read to mean that every action that fails the review standards of section 706
must be ‘set aside,’” provisions such as the Hobbs Act (and others) “become
22
difficult to explain.”

The understanding that section 706(2) preserves the reviewing court’s
traditional remedial discretion is buttressed by common sense. If the APA
required vacatur of every agency action that failed to meet section 706’s
standards, even the most vital agency actions would have to be nullified,
without regard to the disruptive consequences of doing so, for technical errors
or easily correctable gaps in the agency’s reasoning. Not surprisingly,
therefore, a number of circuits have a well-established practice of remanding
defective orders without vacatur when equitable considerations so dictate.
See, e.g., Sugar Cane Growers Coop. v. Veneman, 289 F.3d 89, 97-98 (D.C.
Cir. 2002) (remanding agency rule involving support program for sugar
producers for lack of notice and comment, but declining to vacate rule when
crops had already been plowed under pursuant to the program and vacatur
would be “an invitation to chaos”); Davis Cnty. Solid Waste Mgmt. v. United

22 Ronald M. Levin, Vacation at Sea: Judicial Remedies and Equitable
Discretion in Administrative Law, 53 Duke L.J. 291, 313 & n.89 (2003).
48

States EPA, 108 F.3d 1454, 1459 (D.C. Cir. 1997) (on rehearing, deciding to
vacate only in part to avoid “significantly greater pollution emissions” than
full vacatur would require); Idaho Farm Bureau v. Babbitt, 58 F.3d 1392,
1405-06 (9th Cir. 1995) (declining to vacate when doing so would risk
extinction of endangered species and waste of a “significant expenditure of
public resources”).

While acknowledging this practice by other circuits (Pet. Br. 39-40),
petitioners cite this Court’s decision in Forest Guardians v. Babbitt, 174 F.3d
1178 (10th Cir. 1999), for the proposition that section 706 precludes the
exercise of remedial discretion. Br.40-41. That case, however, involved
APA section 706(1) – not section 706(2) – and held that the former provision
imposed on courts a non-discretionary duty to “‘compel’” agency action
“‘unlawfully withheld or unreasonably delayed.’” 174 F.3d at 1187 (quoting
Section 706(1)). As the Federal Circuit has noted, that decision construing
Section 706(1) is “inapposite” with respect to the construction of section
706(2) that petitioners urge this Court to consider. PGBA, LLC v. United
49

23
States, 389 F.3d 1219, 1227 & n.5 (Fed. Cir. 2004). On the pertinent
question of whether an arbitrary and capricious agency order may be
remanded without being vacated, this Court has ruled in the affirmative. See
Qwest Corp. v. FCC, 258 F.3d 1191, 1205, 1207 (10th Cir. 2001) (remanding
without vacating certain inadequately explained FCC universal service
24
support rules). The Qwest decision refutes petitioners’ assertion that this
Court reads section 706(2) to require vacatur in all instances of agency error.

The Third Circuit in Council Tree III fully explained why the equities
would not support rescission of Auction 73. Among other things, such a
remedy would: “unwind[]” billions of dollars in transactions conducted by
“innocent third parties;” upset “billions of dollars of additional investments
made in reliance on the results;” “seriously disrupt[] existing or planned
wireless service for untold numbers of customers;” and have “broad negative

23 Petitioners also point to cases under the APA in which this Court
decided to vacate agency decisions and stated that unlawful agency orders
“will” or “must” be “set aside.” Pet.Br. 41-43 & n.90. But none of those
cases squarely presented the question whether remand without vacatur may
be permissible when equitable factors so dictate.
24 See also Order of Clarification at 4, Qwest Corp. v. FCC, No. 99-9546
(10th Cir. Aug. 27, 2001) (explaining that its reported opinion “did not vacate
the rules adopted in the FCC’s Ninth Order,” but “merely reversed and
remanded for further hearings” so that the Commission’s existing universal
support mechanisms pursuant to the Ninth Order “may remain in effect . . .
pending the completion” of proceedings on remand).
50

implications for the public interest in general.” 619 F.3d at 257. If this Court
finds the question of remedy with respect to Auction 73 to be properly

presented in this case, it can and should reach the same conclusion.

CONCLUSION

The petition for review should be dismissed or denied.

STATEMENT REGARDING ORAL ARGUMENT


We believe that oral argument will assist the Court in resolving the
issues in this case.
Respectfully
submitted,
JOSEPH F. WAYLAND
SEAN A. LEV
ACTING ASSISTANT ATTORNEY
GENERAL COUNSEL
GENERAL


PETER KARANJIA
ROBERT B. NICHOLSON
DEPUTY GENERAL COUNSEL
ROBERT J. WIGGERS

ATTORNEYS
JACOB M. LEWIS

ASSOCIATE GENERAL COUNSEL
UNITED STATES

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
/s/ Laurence N. Bourne
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20530


LAURENCE N. BOURNE
COUNSEL

FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS
COMMISSION
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20554
(202) 418-1740
July 23, 2012
51

CERTIFICATE OF COMPLIANCE WITH RULE 32(a)

Certificate of Compliance With Type-Volume Limitation,
Typeface Requirements, and Type Style Requirements


1. This brief complies with the type-volume limitation of Fed. R. App. P.
32(a)(7)(B) because:

[ X ] this brief contains 11,185 words, excluding the parts of the brief
exempted by Fed. R. App. P. 32(a)(7)(B)(iii), or

[ ] this brief uses a monospaced typeface and contains <state the number of>
lines of text, excluding the parts of the brief exempted by Fed. R. App. P.
32(a)(7)(B)(iii).

2. This brief complies with the typeface requirements of Fed. R. App. P. 32(a)(5)
and the type style requirements of Fed. R. App. P. 32(a)(6) because:

[ X ] this brief has been prepared in a proportionally spaced typeface using
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[ ] this brief has been prepared in a monospaced typeface using <state name
and version of word processing program> with <state number of characters
per inch and name of type style>.


Date: July 23, 2012


/s/
Laurence
N.
Bourne
_________________________
Laurence
N.
Bourne
Counsel
Federal
Communications
Commission
Washington,
D.C.
20554
(202)
418-1750

COC-1

Certificate of Compliance – 6/2011

























STATUTORY ADDENDUM










5 U.S.C. § 706

28 U.S.C. § 2344

47 U.S.C. § 402(a)

47 C.F.R. § 1.106(f)




5 U.S.C. § 706




UNITED STATES CODE ANNOTATED
TITLE 5. GOVERNMENT ORGANIZATION AND EMPLOYEES
PART I. THE AGENCIES GENERALLY
CHAPTER 7. JUDICIAL REVIEW


§ 706. Scope of review

To the extent necessary to decision and when presented, the reviewing court
shall decide all relevant questions of law, interpret constitutional and
statutory provisions, and determine the meaning or applicability of the terms
of an agency action. The reviewing court shall--

(1) compel agency action unlawfully withheld or unreasonably delayed;
and

(2) hold unlawful and set aside agency action, findings, and conclusions
found to be--

(A) arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in
accordance with law;

(B) contrary to constitutional right, power, privilege, or immunity;

(C) in excess of statutory jurisdiction, authority, or limitations, or short of
statutory right;

(D) without observance of procedure required by law;

(E) unsupported by substantialhttp://www.westlaw.com/Find/Default.wl?rs=dfa1.0&vr=2.0&DB=1000546&DocName=5USCAS556&FindType=L"> evidence in a case subject to sections 556
and http://www.westlaw.com/Find/Default.wl?rs=dfa1.0&vr=2.0&DB=1000546&DocName=5USCAS557&FindType=L">557 of this title or otherwise reviewed on the record of an agency
hearing provided by statute; or

(F) unwarranted by the facts to the extent that the facts are subject to trial
de novo by the reviewing court.


In making the foregoing determinations, the court shall review the whole
record or those parts of it cited by a party, and due account shall be taken of
the rule of prejudicial error.





28 U.S.C. § 2344




United States Code Annotated
Title 28. Judiciary and Judicial Procedure
Part VI. Particular Proceedings
Chapter 158. Orders of Federal Agencies; Review


§ 2344. Review of orders; time; notice; contents of petition; service

On the entry of a final order reviewable under this chapter, the agency shall
promptly give notice thereof by service or publication in accordance with its
rules. Any party aggrieved by the final order may, within 60 days after its
entry, file a petition to review the order in the court of appeals wherein
venue lies. The action shall be against the United States. The petition shall
contain a concise statement of--

(1) the nature of the proceedings as to which review is sought;

(2) the facts on which venue is based;

(3) the grounds on which relief is sought; and

(4) the relief prayed.

The petitioner shall attach to the petition, as exhibits, copies of the order,
report, or decision of the agency. The clerk shall serve a true copy of the
petition on the agency and on the Attorney General by registered mail, with
request for a return receipt.



47 U.S.C. § 402(a)




UNITED STATES CODE ANNOTATED
TITLE 47. TELEGRAPHS, TELEPHONES, AND
RADIOTELEGRAPHS
CHAPTER 5. WIRE OR RADIO COMMUNICATION
SUBCHAPTER IV. PROCEDURAL AND ADMINISTRATIVE
PROVISIONS

§ 402. Judicial review of Commission's orders and decisions

(a) Procedure

Any proceeding to enjoin, set aside, annul, or suspend any order of the
Commission under this chapter (except those appealable under subsection
(b) of this section) shall be brought as provided by and in the manner
prescribed in chapter 158 of Title 28.

* * * * * *




47 C.F.R. § 1.106(f)




CODE OF FEDERAL REGULATIONS
TITLE 47. TELECOMMUNICATION
CHAPTER I. FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION
SUBCHAPTER A. GENERAL
PART 1. PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE
SUBPART A. GENERAL RULES OF PRACTICE AND
PROCEDURE
RECONSIDERATION AND REVIEW OF ACTIONS TAKEN
BY THE COMMISSION AND PURSUANT TO DELEGATED
AUTHORITY; EFFECTIVE DATES AND FINALITY DATES
OF ACTIONS


§ 1.106 Petitions for reconsideration in non-rulemaking proceedings

* * * * * *

(f) The petition for reconsideration and any supplement thereto shall be filed
within 30 days from the date of public notice of the final Commission
http://www.westlaw.com/Find/Default.wl?rs=dfa1.0&vr=2.0&DB=1000547&DocName=47CFRS1.4&FindType=L&ReferencePositionType=T&ReferencePosition=SP_a83b000018c76">action, as that date is defined in § 1.4(b) of these rules, and shall be served
upon parties to the proceeding. The petition for reconsideration shall not
exceed 25 double spaced typewritten pages. No supplement or addition to a
petition for reconsideration which has not been acted upon by the
Commission or by the designated authority, filed after expiration of the 30
day period, will be considered except upon leave granted upon a separate
pleading for leave to file, which shall state the grounds therefor.

* * * * * *


CERTIFICATE OF DIGITAL SUBMISSION


I, Laurence N. Bourne, hereby certify that with respect to the foregoing:

(1) there are no required privacy redactions to be made per 10th Cir. R. 25.5;

(2) if required to file additional hard copies, that the ECF submission is an
exact copy of those documents;

(3) the digital submissions have been scanned for viruses with the most
recent version of a commercial virus scanning program, Symantec Endpoint
Protection version 11.0.5002.333, and according to the program are free of
viruses.


/s/ Laurence N. Bourne
Laurence N. Bourne
Counsel
Federal Communications Commission
Washington, D.C. 20554
(202) 418-1750

12-9543

IN THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE TENTH CIRCUIT


Council Tree Investors, Inc. and Bethel Native Corporation, Petitioners

v.

Federal Communications Commission and United States of America,
Respondents.


CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE



I, Laurence N. Bourne, hereby certify that on July 23, 2012, I electronically
filed the foregoing Brief for Respondents with the Clerk of the Court for the
United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit by using the CM/ECF
system. Participants in the case who are registered CM/ECF users will be
served by the CM/ECF system.

Dennis P. Corbett
Robert Nicholson
S. Jenell Trigg
Robert J. Wiggers
Lerman Senter PLLC
U.S. Department of Justice
2000 K Street, NW
Antitrust Division, Appellate Section
Suite 600
3228
Washington, D.C. 20006
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Counsel for: Petitioners
Washington, D.C. 20530
Counsel for: USA


Michael E. Glover
Andrew G. McBride
Verizon Communicaitons, Inc.
Thomas R. McCarthy
1320 North Courthouse Road
Brett A. Shumate
Ninth Floor
Wiley Rein LLP
Arlington, VA 22201
1776 K Street, N.W.
Counsel for: Cellco Partnership,
Washington, D.C. 20006
DBA Verizon Wireless
Counsel for: Cellco Partnership,

DBA Verizon Wireless



/s/ Laurence N. Bourne

Document Outline

  • FinalFCCBrief
  • Compliance
  • Exhibit 1 (to brief)
  • Addendum
  • CERTIFICATE OF DIGITAL SUBMISSION
  • Cert of Service

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