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Title 13Chapter IPart 134 → Subpart B


Title 13: Business Credit and Assistance
PART 134—RULES OF PROCEDURE GOVERNING CASES BEFORE THE OFFICE OF HEARINGS AND APPEALS


Subpart B—Rules of Practice


Contents
§134.201   Scope of the rules in this subpart.
§134.202   Commencement of cases.
§134.203   The appeal petition.
§134.204   Filing and service requirements.
§134.205   The appeal file, confidential information, and protective orders.
§134.206   The answer or response.
§134.207   Amendments and supplemental pleadings.
§134.208   Representation in cases before OHA.
§134.209   Requirement of signature.
§134.210   Intervention.
§134.211   Motions.
§134.212   Summary judgment.
§134.213   Discovery.
§134.214   Subpoenas.
§134.215   Interlocutory appeals.
§134.216   Alternative dispute resolution procedures.
§134.217   Settlement.
§134.218   Judges.
§134.219   Sanctions.
§134.220   Prohibition against ex parte communications.
§134.221   Prehearing conferences.
§134.222   Oral hearing.
§134.223   Evidence.
§134.224   [Reserved]
§134.225   The record.
§134.226   The decision.
§134.227   Finality of decisions.
§134.228   Review of initial decisions.
§134.229   Termination of jurisdiction.

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§134.201   Scope of the rules in this subpart.

(a) The rules of practice in this subpart apply to all OHA proceedings except:

(1) Where another subpart of this part, pertaining to a specific type of OHA proceeding, provides a different rule; or

(2) Where another part of this chapter, pertaining to a specific type of OHA proceeding (or SBA program allowing appeals to OHA), provides a different rule (see §134.102).

(b) For specific types of OHA proceedings, the rules of practice are located as follows:

(1) For appeals from size determinations and NAICS code designations, in subpart C of this part (§134.301 et seq.);

(2) For 8(a) BD appeals, in subpart D of this part (§134.401 et seq.);

(3) For appeals from Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Concern protest determinations, in subpart E of this part (§134.501 et seq.);

(4) For applications under the Equal Access to Justice Act, in subpart F of this part (§134.601 et seq.);

(5) For appeals from Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) and Economically-Disadvantaged WOSB protest determinations, in subpart G of this part (§134.701 et seq.);

(6) For appeals relating to SBA employee disputes, in subpart H of this part (§134.801 et seq.);

(7) For Size Standard Petitions, in subpart I of this part (§§134.901 through 134.918);

(8) For protests of eligibility for inclusion in the Center for Verification and Evaluation (CVE) database, in subpart J of this part;

(9) For appeals of denials and cancellations of inclusion in the CVE database, in subpart K of this part; and

(10) For proceedings under the Program Fraud Civil Remedies Act, in part 142 of this chapter.

(c) If a rule in this subpart conflicts with a rule pertaining to OHA in another subpart of this part or in another part of this chapter, the latter rule shall govern.

[75 FR 47438, Aug. 6, 2010, as amended at 82 FR 25506, June 2, 2017; 83 FR 13629, Mar. 30, 2018]

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§134.202   Commencement of cases.

(a) A party other than the SBA may commence a case by filing an appeal petition.

(1) The filing deadline is contained in the SBA regulations governing the specific type of appeal.

(2) Where the SBA action or determination being appealed states a different time period (or deadline) for filing an appeal petition than does the applicable regulation, the longer time period (or later deadline) governs.

(b) The SBA may commence a case by issuing to the respondent an appropriate written order to show cause and filing the order to show cause with OHA.

(c) Cases concerning Small Business Investment Company license suspensions and revocations and cease and desist orders must be commenced with an order to show cause containing a statement of the matters of fact and law asserted by the SBA, the legal authority and jurisdiction under which a hearing is to be held, a statement that a hearing will be held, and the time and place for the hearing.

(d) Calculation and modification of time periods and deadlines. (1) Calculation of a deadline when the time period is given in days. (i) Do not count the day the time period begins, but do count the last day of the time period.

(ii) If the last day is Saturday, Sunday, or a Federal holiday, the time period ends on the next business day.

Example: On Monday, a Judge orders a party to file and serve a document within (or no later than) five days. The time period begins on Monday, so the first day to count is Tuesday. The second, third, and fourth days are Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. The fifth day is Saturday, so the time period rolls over to the next business day, which is Monday. The deadline is Monday (or Tuesday if Monday is a Federal holiday).

(2) Modification of a time period or deadline. (i) A Judge may modify any time period or deadline, except:

(A) The time period governing commencement of a case (i.e., when the appeal petition may be filed); and

(B) A time period established by statute.

(ii) A party may move for an extension of time pursuant to §134.211.

[67 FR 47246, July 18, 2002, as amended at 70 FR 17587, Apr. 7, 2005; 75 FR 47439, Aug. 6, 2010]

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§134.203   The appeal petition.

(a) A petition must contain the following:

(1) The basis of OHA's jurisdiction (see §134.102);

(2) A copy of the SBA determination being appealed, if applicable, and the date the determination was received by the petitioner;

(3) A clear and concise statement of the factual basis of the case and applicable legal arguments;

(4) The relief being sought;

(5) The name, address, telephone number, facsimile number, e-mail address, and signature of the petitioner or its attorney; and

(6) A certificate of service (see §134.204(d)).

(b) If the applicable subpart of this part 134 (or the program regulations) requires other documents or information with the appeal petition, these must also be included.

(c) A petition which does not contain all of the information required by paragraphs (a) and (b) of this section may be dismissed, with or without prejudice, at the Judge's own initiative, or upon motion of the respondent.

(d) Format. (1) An appeal petition should be on 8.5 × 11 paper with a clear type at least 12 point in size. Preferably, double-space the main text and use 1 margins all around. Number each page. A separate cover letter is not needed. A table of contents is optional. Hard copies of documents sent by facsimile or electronic mail are not needed unless specifically requested.

(2) The maximum length of an appeal petition (not including attachments) is 20 pages, unless prior leave is sought by the petitioner and granted by the Judge. A table of authorities is required only for petitions citing more than twenty cases, regulations, or statutes.

(3) Clearly label any exhibits and attachments. Do not include documents already submitted to SBA in connection with the matter being appealed. SBA will submit these directly to OHA.

(e) Motion for a more definite appeal petition. A respondent, SBA, or a contracting officer (for NAICS appeals) may, not later than five days after receiving a petition, move for an order to the petitioner to provide a more definite appeal petition or otherwise comply with this section. A Judge may order a more definite appeal petition on his or her own initiative.

(1) A motion for a more definite appeal petition stays the respondent's time for filing an answer or response. The Judge will establish the time for filing and serving an answer or response.

(2) If the petitioner does not comply with the Judge's order to provide a more definite appeal petition or otherwise fails to comply with applicable regulations, the Judge may dismiss the petition with prejudice.

(f) Notice and Order. After an appeal petition is filed, OHA will issue a Notice and Order and serve it upon all known parties (or their attorneys). If a party does not receive a Notice and Order, it should contact OHA.

[67 FR 47247, July 18, 2002, as amended at 75 FR 47439, Aug. 6, 2010]

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§134.204   Filing and service requirements.

All pleadings or other submissions must be filed with OHA and served on all other parties or their attorneys. Each submission requires a certificate of service.

(a) Methods of filing and service. E-mail, mail, delivery, and facsimile are all permitted unless a Judge orders otherwise.

(1) E-mail constitutes any system for sending and receiving messages electronically over a telecommunications network. The sender is responsible for ensuring that e-mail software and file formats are compatible with the recipient and for a successful, virus-free transmission.

(2) Mail includes any service provided by the U.S. Postal Service. Mail (except “Express Mail”) is not recommended for time-sensitive filings.

(3) Delivery is personal delivery by a party, its employee, its attorney, or a commercial delivery service.

(4) Facsimile submissions should not exceed 30 pages. Contact OHA before faxing longer submissions. Follow-up originals or “hard copies” are not required unless OHA or another party specifically requests them.

(b) Filing. Filing is the receipt of pleadings and other submissions at OHA. Filers may call OHA to verify receipt. OHA's telephone number is (202) 401-8200.

(1) OHA's address. OHA accepts filings: by e-mail at OHAFilings@sba.gov; by mail or delivery at Office of Hearings and Appeals, U.S. Small Business Administration, 409 Third Street, SW., Washington, DC 20416; and by facsimile at (202) 205-7059.

(2) The date of filing is the date the submission is received at OHA. Any submission received at OHA after 5 p.m. eastern time is considered filed the next business day.

(3) Exhibits. An exhibit, whether an original or a copy, must be authenticated or identified to be what it purports to be. Parties are referred to 28 U.S.C. 1746.

(4) Copies. No extra copies of pleadings or other submissions need be filed. If a document is offered as an exhibit, a copy of the document will be accepted by the Judge unless—

(i) a genuine question is raised as to whether it is a true and accurate copy; or

(ii) it would be unfair, under the circumstances, to admit the copy instead of the original.

(c) Service. Service means sending a copy of a pleading or other submission filed with OHA to another party.

(1) Complete copies of all pleadings and other submissions filed with OHA must be served upon all other parties or, if represented, their attorneys, at their record addresses.

(2) The date of service is as follows: for e-mail and facsimile, the date the copy is sent; for personal delivery, the date the copy is given to the party, its attorney, or the commercial delivery service (if one is used). For mail, date of service is postmark date; in absence of a legible postmark, there is a rebuttable presumption that the copy was mailed five days before the served party's receipt.

(3) SBA address. The correct office(s) of SBA must be served, as required by the applicable program regulations, by other subparts of part 134, or by the instructions on the SBA determination being appealed. If the SBA office for service is not specified elsewhere, serve: Office of General Counsel, U.S. Small Business Administration, 409 Third Street, SW., Washington, DC 20416.

(4) Confidential information. If a pleading or other submission contains proprietary or confidential information, that information may be redacted (deleted) from any copies served upon non-government parties. Counsel for those parties may access the redacted information only under the protective order procedure described in §134.205.

(d) Certificate of service. A certificate of service shows how, when, and to whom service was made. Each submission to OHA must include a certificate of service. The certificate should state: “I certify that on [date], I served the foregoing [type of submission] by [e-mail, mail, Express Mail, personal delivery, commercial delivery service, facsimile] upon the following”. List the name and address of each party served, and either the facsimile number or the e-mail address (if applicable). The individual serving the submission must sign the certificate and either print or type his or her name and title.

[75 FR 47439, Aug. 6, 2010]

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§134.205   The appeal file, confidential information, and protective orders.

(a) The appeal file. The appeal file includes: all pleadings and other submissions; all admitted evidence; any recordings and transcripts of proceedings; the solicitation and amendments; in the case of an appeal of an SBA determination, the entire record on which that determination was based (i.e., the administrative record, protest file, area office file); and any orders and decisions that have been issued.

(b) Confidential business and financial information. An appeal file usually contains confidential business and financial information pertaining to the party whose eligibility (as a small business, SDVO SBC, etc.) is at issue. A party may redact its own confidential business and financial information from the copies of its submissions it must serve on other non-government parties (usually protesters). A party served with redacted submissions must file and serve any objections to the redactions within two business days of its receipt of the submissions. The Judge then will rule on the objections and, if necessary, order the service of revised submissions.

(c) Public access. Except for confidential business and financial information; source selection sensitive information; income tax returns; documents and information covered under §120.1060 of this title; and other exempt information, the appeal file is available to the public pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552.

(d) Party access. A party in a pending appeal may examine and copy the party's own submissions as well as any information in the appeal file that is not exempt from disclosure under the FOIA. Party access to the appeal file in a pending appeal does not require a FOIA request or a protective order.

(e) Counsel's access under a protective order. On request, OHA will issue a protective order under which outside counsel for a non-government party in a pending appeal may be admitted, to examine and copy the appeal file (except for tax returns and privileged information). The protective order will set out the terms to which counsel must agree. The terms will restrict counsel's use of the protected information to the pending appeal and will prohibit any further disclosure. Violations of the terms of a protective order may result in sanctions to the party and referral of the attorney to bar disciplinary authorities. OHA's Web site contains detailed information on the protective order procedure.

(f) Decisions. OHA decisions are normally published without redactions on OHA's Web site. A decision may contain confidential business and financial information where that information is either decisionally-significant or otherwise necessary for a comprehensible decision. Where no protective order is in place, a party may request a redacted public decision by contacting OHA. Where a protective order is in place, the Judge will usually issue the unredacted decision under the protective order and then a redacted version for public release.

[75 FR 47440, Aug. 6, 2010, as amended at 85 FR 14784, Mar. 16, 2020]

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§134.206   The answer or response.

(a)(1) Except in a case involving a petition appealing from an SBA determination, a respondent must file and serve an answer within 45 days after the filing of a petition or the service of an order to show cause, except that in debt collection cases, answers are due within 30 days.

(2) The answer must contain the following:

(i) An admission or denial of each of the factual allegations contained in the petition or order to show cause, or a statement that the respondent denies knowledge or information sufficient to determine the truth of a particular allegation;

(ii) Any affirmative defenses; and

(iii) The name, address, telephone number, facsimile number, and signature of the respondent or its attorney.

(3) Allegations in the petition or order to show cause that are not answered in accordance with paragraph (a)(2)(i) of this section will be deemed admitted unless injustice would occur.

(b) Appeal of an SBA determination. (1) Notice and order. Upon the filing of an appeal petition, OHA will issue a notice and order informing all known parties of the appeal petition and the deadline for filing and serving any responses to the appeal. The SBA response is due 45 days after the date the appeal petition is filed, unless a rule governing the particular type of appeal provides a different deadline.

(2) SBA response. If SBA is the respondent, SBA need not admit or deny the allegations in the petition, but must set forth the relevant facts and the legal arguments in support of SBA's determination.

(3) Administrative record. If SBA is to file and serve an authenticated copy of the administrative record (or protest file), the notice and order will provide further instructions.

(4) Claim of privilege. If SBA asserts a claim of privilege over any portion of the administrative record, SBA must serve the petitioner a redacted version, accompanied by a “Vaughn Index” describing each withheld item and justifying each claim of privilege. SBA also must file an unredacted copy for in camera inspection by the Judge. The Judge will afford the petitioner an opportunity to object to the administrative record and to challenge any claim of privilege asserted by SBA.

(c) If a petition or order to show cause is amended or if respondent is not properly served, the Judge will order the time to file an answer or response extended and will specify the date such answer or response is due. If respondent is not properly served with a petition appealing from an SBA determination, the Judge will issue an order directing that the petitioner serve respondent within a specified time and directing respondent to file and serve a response within 45 days after petitioner timely serves respondent in accordance with the order.

(d) If the respondent fails to timely file and serve an answer or response, that failure will constitute a default. Following such a default, the Judge may prohibit the respondent from participating further in the case. If SBA, as respondent to a petition appealing from an SBA determination, fails to timely file and serve its response or the administrative record (where required), the Judge will issue an order directing SBA to file and serve the administrative record by a specified date.

(e) Reply. A reply to a response is not permitted unless the Judge, upon motion or on his or her own initiative, orders a reply to be filed and served. A party moving for leave to reply should file and serve the proposed reply with its motion.

[67 FR 47247, July 18, 2002, as amended at 75 FR 47440, Aug. 6, 2010]

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§134.207   Amendments and supplemental pleadings.

(a) Amendments. Upon motion (see §134.211), and under terms needed to avoid prejudice to any non-moving party, the Judge may permit the filing and service of amendments to pleadings. However, an amendment will not be permitted if it would cause unreasonable delay in the determination of the matter. The proposed amendment must be filed and served with the motion. The Judge, on his or her own initiative, may order a party to file and serve an amendment to a pleading.

(b) Supplemental pleadings. Upon motion (see §134.211), and under terms needed to avoid prejudice to any non-moving party, the Judge may permit the filing and service of a supplemental pleading setting forth relevant transactions or occurrences that have taken place since the filing of the original pleading. The proposed supplemental pleading must be filed and served with the motion. The Judge, on his or her own initiative, may order a party to file and serve a supplemental pleading.

(c) 8(a) appeals. In 8(a) program appeals, amendments to pleadings and supplemental pleadings will be permitted by the Judge only upon a showing of good cause.

(d) Answer or response. In an order permitting the filing and service of an amended or supplemented petition or order to show cause, the Judge will establish the time for filing and serving an answer or response.

[61 FR 2683, Jan. 29, 1996, as amended at 67 FR 47248, July 18, 2002; 75 FR 47441, Aug. 6, 2010]

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§134.208   Representation in cases before OHA.

(a) A party may represent itself, or be represented by an attorney. A partner may represent a partnership; a member may represent a limited liability company; and an officer may represent a corporation, trust, association, or other entity.

(b) An attorney for a party who did not appear on behalf of that party in the party's first filing with OHA must file and serve a written notice of appearance.

(c) An attorney seeking to withdraw from a case must file and serve a motion for the withdrawal of his or her appearance.

[67 FR 47248, July 18, 2002]

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§134.209   Requirement of signature.

Every written submission to OHA, other than evidence, must be signed by the party filing that submission, or by the party's attorney. By signing the submission, a party or its attorney attests that the statements and allegations in that submission are true to the best of its knowledge, and that the submission is not being filed for the purpose of delay or harassment. False statements are subject to criminal penalties. Any misconduct is subject to sanctions (see §134.219).

[61 FR 2683, Jan. 29, 1996, as amended at 75 FR 47441, Aug. 6, 2010]

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§134.210   Intervention.

(a) By SBA. SBA may intervene as of right at any time in any case until 15 days after the close of record, or the issuance of a decision, whichever comes first.

(b) By interested persons. Any interested person may move to intervene at any time until the close of record by filing and serving a motion to intervene containing a statement of the moving party's interest in the case and the necessity for intervention to protect such interest. An interested person is any individual, business entity, or governmental agency that has a direct stake in the outcome of the appeal. The Judge may grant leave to intervene upon such terms as he or she deems appropriate.

[67 FR 47248, July 18, 2002]

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§134.211   Motions.

(a) Contents. All motions must state the relief being requested, as well as the grounds and any authority for that relief. A motion must be filed, served, and accompanied by a certificate of service (see §134.204).

(b) Statement of whether motion is opposed. Except when filing a motion to dismiss or a motion for summary decision, the moving party must make reasonable efforts before filing the motion to contact any non-moving party and determine whether it will oppose the motion and must state in the motion whether each non-moving party will oppose or not oppose the motion. If the moving party cannot determine whether a non-moving party will oppose the motion, the moving party must describe in the motion the efforts made to contact that non-moving party.

(c) Response. All non-moving parties must file and serve a response to the motion or be deemed to have consented to the relief sought. The response is due no later than 15 days after the motion is served, unless the Judge sets a different deadline. On motion, or on his or her own initiative, the Judge may permit a reply to a response and/or oral argument on the motion.

(d) Service of orders. OHA will serve upon all parties any written order issued in response to a motion.

(e) Motion to dismiss. A respondent may file a motion to dismiss any time before a decision is issued. If an answer or response to the appeal petition has not yet been filed, the motion to dismiss stays the respondent's time to answer or respond.

(f) Motion for an extension of time. Except for good cause shown, a motion for an extension of time must be filed at least two business days before the original deadline.

[61 FR 2683, Jan. 29, 1996, as amended at 63 FR 35766, June 30, 1998; 67 FR 47248, July 18, 2002; 75 FR 47441, Aug. 6, 2010]

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§134.212   Summary judgment.

(a) On motion by a party. At any time before the close of record, a party may move for summary judgment as to all or any portion of the case, on the grounds that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and that the moving party is entitled to a decision in its favor as a matter of law.

(1) Contents of motion. The motion must include a statement of the material facts believed to be undisputed and the party's legal arguments. The motion may include supporting statements in accordance with 28 U.S.C. 1746. The motion must be filed, served, and accompanied by a certificate of service (see §134.204).

(2) Response. No later than 15 days after the service of a motion for summary judgment, all non-moving parties must file and serve a response to the motion or be deemed to have consented to the motion for summary judgment.

(3) Cross-motions. In its response to a motion for summary judgment, a party may cross-move for summary judgment. The initial moving party must file and serve a response to any cross-motion for summary judgment within 15 days after the service of that cross-motion or be deemed to have consented to the cross-motion for summary judgment.

(4) Stay. If an answer or response to the appeal petition has not yet been filed, the motion for summary judgment stays the respondent's time to answer or respond. If the Judge denies the motion and an answer or response has not yet been filed, the respondent must file the answer or response within 15 days after the order deciding the motion unless otherwise ordered by the Judge.

(b) On the Judge's own initiative. The Judge may issue an order granting summary judgment as to all or any portion of the case in absence of a motion if there is no genuine issue to any material fact, and a party is entitled to a decision in its favor as a matter of law.

(c) Appeal of an SBA determination. If the SBA determination being appealed was based on multiple grounds, SBA may move for summary judgment on one or more of those grounds. If the Judge finds, as to any ground, that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the SBA is entitled to a decision in its favor as a matter of law, the Judge will grant the motion for summary judgment and dismiss the rest of the appeal.

[75 FR 47441, Aug. 6, 2010]

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§134.213   Discovery.

(a) Motion. A party may obtain discovery only upon motion, and for good cause shown.

(b) Forms. The forms of discovery which a Judge can order under paragraph (a) of this section include requests for admissions, requests for production of documents, interrogatories, and depositions.

(c) Limitations. Discovery may be limited in accordance with the terms of a protective order (see §134.205). Further, privileged information and irrelevant issues or facts will not be subject to discovery.

(d) Disputes. If a dispute should arise between the parties over a particular discovery request, the party seeking discovery may file and serve a motion to compel discovery. Discovery may be opposed on the grounds of harassment, needless embarrassment, irrelevance, undue burden or expense, privilege, or confidentiality.

[61 FR 2683, Jan. 29, 1996, as amended at 63 FR 35766, June 30, 1998; 67 FR 47249, July 18, 2002; 75 FR 47441, Aug. 6, 2010]

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§134.214   Subpoenas.

(a) Availability. At the request of a party, or upon his or her own initiative, a Judge may issue a subpoena requiring a witness to appear and testify, or to produce particular documents, at a specified time and place.

(b) Requests. A request for the issuance of a subpoena must be written, served upon all parties, and filed. The request must clearly identify the witness and any documents to be subpoenaed, and must set forth the relevance of the testimony or documents sought.

(c) Service. A subpoena may only be served by personal delivery. The individual making service shall prepare an affidavit stating the date, time, and place of the service. The party which obtained the subpoena must serve upon all other parties, and file with OHA, a copy of the subpoena and affidavit of service within 2 days after service is made.

(d) Motion to quash. A motion to limit or quash a subpoena must be filed and served within 10 days after service of the subpoena, or by the return date of the subpoena, whichever date comes first. Any response to the motion must be filed and served within 10 days after service of the motion, unless a shorter time is specified by the Judge. No oral argument will be heard on the motion unless the Judge directs otherwise.

[61 FR 2683, Jan. 29, 1996, as amended at 67 FR 47249, July 18, 2002; 75 FR 47441, Aug. 6, 2010]

Editorial Note: At 75 FR 47441, Aug. 6, 2010, §134.214 was amended; however, a portion of the amendment could not be incorporated due to inaccurate amendatory instruction.

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§134.215   Interlocutory appeals.

(a) General. A motion for leave to take an interlocutory appeal from a Judge's ruling will not be entertained in those proceedings in which OHA issues final decisions. In all other cases, an interlocutory appeal will be permitted only if, upon motion by a party, or upon the Judge's own initiative, the Judge certifies that his or her ruling raises a question which is immediately appealable. Interlocutory appeals will be decided by the AA/OHA or a designee.

(b) Motion for certification. A party must file and serve a motion for certification no later than 20 days after issuance of the ruling to which the motion applies. A denial of the motion does not preclude objections to the ruling in any subsequent request for review of an initial decision.

(c) Basis for certification. The Judge will certify a ruling for interlocutory appeal only if he or she determines that:

(1) The ruling involves an important question of law or policy about which there is substantial ground for a difference of opinion; and

(2) An interlocutory appeal will materially expedite resolution of the case, or denial of an interlocutory appeal would cause undue hardship to a party.

(d) Stay of proceedings. A stay while an interlocutory appeal is pending will be at the discretion of the Judge.

[61 FR 2683, Jan. 29, 1996, as amended at 67 FR 47249, July 18, 2002]

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§134.216   Alternative dispute resolution procedures.

(a) At any time during the pendency of a case, the parties may submit a joint motion requesting that the Judge permit the use of alternative dispute resolution procedures to assist in resolving the matter. If the motion is granted, the Judge will also stay the proceedings before OHA, in whole or in part, as he or she deems appropriate, pending the outcome of the alternative dispute resolution procedures.

(b) A Judge may offer alternative dispute resolution procedures to the parties at any time during the proceeding.

(c) The AA/OHA or a Judge may designate a Judge or attorney assigned to OHA to serve as a neutral in alternative dispute resolution procedures. If OHA provides the neutral and the mediation fails to resolve all issues in the case, the OHA-provided neutral will not be involved in the adjudication.

[61 FR 2683, Jan. 29, 1996, as amended at 75 FR 47441, Aug. 6, 2010]

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§134.217   Settlement.

At any time during the pendency of a case, the parties may submit a joint motion to dismiss the appeal if they have settled the case, and may file with such motion a copy of the settlement agreement. If the Judge has express authority, under statute, SBA regulation or SBA standard operating procedures, to review the contents of a settlement agreement for legality, the Judge may order the parties to file a copy of the settlement agreement. Otherwise, upon the filing of a joint motion to dismiss, the Judge will issue an order dismissing the case. Settlement negotiations, and rejected settlement agreements, are not admissible into evidence.

[61 FR 2683, Jan. 29, 1996, as amended at 67 FR 47249, July 18, 2002]

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§134.218   Judges.

(a) Assignment. The AA/OHA will assign all cases subject to the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. 551 et seq., to an Administrative Law Judge. The AA/OHA will assign all other cases before OHA to either an Administrative Law Judge or an Administrative Judge, or, if the AA/OHA is a duly licensed attorney, to himself or herself.

(b) Authority. Except as otherwise limited by this part, or by statute or other regulation, a Judge has the authority to take all appropriate action to ensure the efficient, prompt, and fair determination of a case, including, but not limited to, the authority to administer oaths and affirmations and to subpoena and examine witnesses.

(c) Recusal. Upon the motion of a party, or upon the Judge's own initiative, a Judge will promptly recuse himself or herself from further participation in a case whenever disqualification is appropriate due to conflict of interest, bias, or some other significant reason. A denial of a motion for recusal may be appealed within 5 days to the AA/OHA, or to the Administrative Law Judge if the AA/OHA is the Judge, but that appeal will not stay proceedings in the case.

[61 FR 2683, Jan. 29, 1996, as amended at 75 FR 47441, Aug. 6, 2010]

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§134.219   Sanctions.

(a) A Judge may impose appropriate sanctions, except for fees, costs, or monetary penalties, which he or she deems necessary to serve the ends of justice, if a party or its attorney:

(1) Fails to comply with an order of the Judge;

(2) Fails to comply with the rules set forth in this part;

(3) Acts in bad faith or for purposes of delay or harassment;

(4) Submits false statements knowingly, recklessly, or with deliberate disregard for the truth; or

(5) Otherwise acts in an unethical or disruptive manner.

(b) Appropriate sanctions may include:

(1) Ordering a pleading or evidentiary filing to be struck from the record;

(2) Dismissing an appeal with prejudice;

(3) Suspending counsel from practice before OHA;

(4) Filing a complaint with the applicable State bar; and

(5) Taking any other action that is appropriate to further the administration of justice.

[75 FR 47441, Aug. 6, 2010]

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§134.220   Prohibition against ex parte communications.

No person shall consult or communicate with a Judge concerning any fact, question of law, or SBA policy relevant to the merits of a case before that Judge except on prior notice to all parties, and with the opportunity for all parties to participate. In the event of such prohibited consultation or communication, the Judge will disclose the occurrence in accordance with 5 U.S.C. 557(d)(1), and may impose such sanctions as he or she deems appropriate.

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§134.221   Prehearing conferences.

Prior to a hearing, the Judge, at his or her own initiative, or upon the motion of any party, may direct the parties or their attorneys to appear, by telephone or in person, in order to consider any matter which may assist in the efficient, prompt, and fair determination of the case. The conference may be recorded verbatim at the discretion of the Judge, and, if so, a party may purchase a transcript, at its own expense, from the recording service.

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§134.222   Oral hearing.

(a) Availability. A party may obtain an oral hearing only if:

(1) It is required by regulation; or

(2) Following the motion of a party, or at his or her own initiative, the Judge orders an oral hearing upon concluding that there is a genuine dispute as to a material fact that cannot be resolved except by the taking of testimony and the confrontation of witnesses.

(b) Place and time. The place and time of oral hearings is within the discretion of the Judge, who shall give due regard to the necessity and convenience of the parties, their attorneys, and witnesses. The Judge may direct that an oral hearing be conducted by telephone.

(c) Public access. Unless otherwise ordered by the Judge, all oral hearings are public.

(d) Payment of subpoenaed witnesses. A party who obtains a witness's presence at an oral hearing by subpoena must pay to that witness the fees and mileage costs to which the witness would be entitled in Federal court.

(e) Recording. Oral hearings will be recorded verbatim. A transcript of a recording may be purchased by a party, at its own expense, from the recording service.

[61 FR 2683, Jan. 29, 1996, as amended at 63 FR 35766, June 30, 1998; 70 FR 17587, Apr. 7, 2005; 75 FR 47442, Aug. 6, 2010]

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§134.223   Evidence.

(a) Federal Rules of Evidence. Unless contrary to a particular rule in this part, or an order of the Judge, the Federal Rules of Evidence will be used as a general guide in all cases before OHA.

(b) Hearsay. Hearsay evidence is admissible if it is deemed by the Judge to be relevant and reliable. Weight to be afforded hearsay evidence is at the discretion of the Judge.

[61 FR 2683, Jan. 29, 1996, as amended at 75 FR 47442, Aug. 6, 2010]

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§134.224   [Reserved]

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§134.225   The record.

(a) Contents. The record of a case before OHA will consist of all pleadings, motions, and other non-evidentiary submissions, all admitted evidence, all orders and decisions, and any transcripts of proceedings in the case.

(b) Closure. The Judge will set the date upon which the pre-decisional record of the case will be closed, and after which no additional evidence or argument will be accepted.

[61 FR 2683, Jan. 29, 1996, as amended at 75 FR 47442, Aug. 6, 2010]

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§134.226   The decision.

(a) Contents. (1) Following close of record, the Judge will issue a decision containing findings of fact and conclusions of law, the reasons for such findings and conclusions, and any relief ordered. The record will constitute the exclusive basis for a decision.

(2) An OHA decision creates precedent, unless:

(i) Another regulation in this chapter applicable to a specific type of appeal provides that the OHA decision does not create precedent; or

(ii) the decision is designated as one not to be cited as precedent.

(3) A summary decision containing only cursory findings of fact and conclusions of law may be issued only if the Judge finds a full decision will not advance understanding of Federal statutes or applicable regulations, policies, or procedures and the underlying facts and law are of a routine and non-complex nature.

(b) Time limits. Decisions pertaining to the collection of debts owed to SBA and the United States under the Debt Collection Act of 1982, the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996, and Part 140 of this chapter must be made within 60 days after a petition is filed. Time limits for decisions in other types of cases, if any, are indicated either in the applicable program regulations or in other subparts of this part 134.

(c) Service. OHA will serve a copy of all written decisions on:

(1) Each party, or, if represented by counsel, on its counsel; and

(2) SBA's General Counsel, or his or her designee, if SBA is not a party.

[61 FR 2683, Jan. 29, 1996, as amended at 67 FR 47249, July 18, 2002; 70 FR 17587, Apr. 7, 2005; 75 FR 47442, Aug. 6, 2010]

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§134.227   Finality of decisions.

(a) Initial decisions. Except as otherwise provided in paragraph (b) of this section, a decision by the Judge on the merits is an initial decision. However, unless a request for review is filed pursuant to §134.228(a), or a request for reconsideration is filed pursuant to paragraph (c) of this section, an initial decision shall become the final decision of the SBA 30 days after its service.

(b) Final decisions. A decision by the Judge on the merits shall be a final decision in the following proceedings:

(1) Collection of debts owed to SBA and the United States under the Debt Collection Act of 1982, Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996, and part 140 of this chapter;

(2) Appeals from SBA 8(a) program determinations under the Act and part 124 of this chapter;

(3) Appeals from size determinations and NAICS code designations under part 121 of this chapter;

(4) Size Standard Petitions; and

(5) In other proceedings as provided either in the applicable program regulations or in other subparts of this part 134.

(c) Reconsideration. Except as otherwise provided by statute, the applicable program regulations in this chapter, or this part 134, an initial or final decision of the Judge may be reconsidered. Any party in interest, including SBA where SBA did not appear as a party during the proceeding that led to the issuance of the Judge's decision, may request reconsideration by filing with the Judge and serving a petition for reconsideration within 20 days after service of the written decision, upon a clear showing of an error of fact or law material to the decision. The Judge also may reconsider a decision on his or her own initiative.

[67 FR 47249, July 18, 2002, as amended at 70 FR 17587, Apr. 7, 2005; 81 FR 48595, July 25, 2016; 82 FR 25507, June 2, 2017]

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§134.228   Review of initial decisions.

(a) Request for review. Within 30 days after the service of an initial decision or a reconsidered initial decision of a Judge, any party, or SBA's Office of General Counsel, may file and serve a request for review by the Administrator. A request for review must set forth the filing party's specific objections to the initial decision, and any alleged support for those objections in the record, or in case law, statute, regulation, or SBA policy. A party must serve its request for review upon all other parties and upon SBA's Office of General Counsel.

(b) Response. Within 20 days after the service of a request for review, any party, or SBA's Office of General Counsel, may file and serve a response. A party must serve its response upon all other parties and upon SBA's Office of General Counsel.

(c) Transfer of the record. Upon receipt of all responses, or 30 days after the filing of a request for review, whichever is earlier, OHA will transfer the record of the case to the Administrator. The Administrator, or his or her designee, will then review the record.

(d) Standard of review. Upon review, the Administrator, or his or her designee, will sustain the initial decision unless it is based on an erroneous finding of fact or an erroneous interpretation or application of case law, statute, regulation, or SBA policy.

(e) Order. The Administrator, or his or her designee, will:

(1) Affirm, reverse, or modify the initial decision, which determination will become the final decision of the SBA upon issuance; or

(2) Remand the initial decision to the Judge for appropriate further proceedings.

[61 FR 2683, Jan. 29, 1996, as amended at 67 FR 47249, July 18, 2002]

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§134.229   Termination of jurisdiction.

Except when the Judge reconsiders a decision or remands the case, the jurisdiction of OHA will terminate upon the issuance of a decision resolving all material issues of fact and law. If the Judge reconsiders a decision, OHA's jurisdiction terminates when the Judge issues the decision after reconsideration. If the Judge remands the case, the Judge may retain jurisdiction at his or her own discretion, and the remand order may include the terms and duration of the remand.

[67 FR 47249, July 18, 2002]

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