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e-CFR data is current as of July 13, 2020

Title 7Subtitle BChapter IISubchapter C → Part 283


Title 7: Agriculture


PART 283—APPEALS OF QUALITY CONTROL (“QC”) CLAIMS


Contents

Subpart A—General

§283.1   Meaning of words.
§283.2   Scope and applicability.
§283.3   Definitions.

Subpart B—Appeals of QC Claims of $50,000 or More

§283.4   Filing appeals for QC claims of $50,000 or more.
§283.5   Motion to dismiss.
§283.6   Answer.
§283.7   Procedures upon failure to file an answer.
§283.8   Rebuttal or amendment of appeal or answer.
§283.9   Withdrawal of appeal.
§283.10   Consent decision.
§283.11   Prehearing conference and procedure.
§283.12   Discovery.
§283.13   Subpoenas.
§283.14   Fees of witnesses.
§283.15   Procedure for hearing.
§283.16   Consolidation of issues.
§283.17   Post-hearing procedure.
§283.18   Motions and requests.
§283.19   ALJs.
§283.20   Review by the Judicial Officer.
§283.21   Ex parte communications.
§283.22   Form; filing; service; proof of service; computation of time; and extensions of time.
§283.23   Procedural matters.

Subpart C—Summary Procedure for Appeals of QC Claims of Less Than $50,000

§283.24   Incorporation of procedures by reference.
§283.25   Filing appeals for QC claims of less than $50,000.
§283.26   Request that appeals be handled under procedures in subpart B for appeals of QC claims of $50,000 or more.
§283.27   Procedures upon failure to file an answer.
§283.28   Discovery.
§283.29   Scheduling conference.
§283.30   Cross motions for summary judgment.
§283.31   Review of the record.
§283.32   ALJ's initial decision.

Authority: 7 U.S.C. 2011-2036.

Source: Amdt. 348, 59 FR 34561, July 6, 1994, unless otherwise noted.

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Subpart A—General

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§283.1   Meaning of words.

As used in this part, words in the singular form shall be deemed to import the plural, and vice versa, as the case may require.

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§283.2   Scope and applicability.

The rules of practice in this part, shall be applicable to appeals by State agencies of Food and Nutrition Service quality control (QC) claims for Fiscal Year (“FY”) 1986 and subsequent fiscal years pursuant to sections 14(a) and 16(c) of the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008, as amended, 7 U.S.C. 2023(a) and 2025(c).

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§283.3   Definitions.

As used in this part, the terms as defined in the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008, as amended, 7 U.S.C. 2011-2032 (“Act”), and in the regulations, standards, instructions or orders issued thereunder, shall apply with equal force and effect. In addition, and except as may be provided otherwise in this section:

Administrator means the Administrator, Food and Nutrition Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture (“USDA”).

ALJ means any Administrative Law Judge in USDA appointed pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 3105 or detailed to the USDA pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 3344 and assigned to the appeal.

Appeal means the appeal to the ALJ.

Ex parte communication means an oral or written communication not on the public record with respect to which reasonable prior notice to all parties is not given, but it shall not include procedural matters.

Filing. A pleading or other document allowed or required to be filed in accordance with this part shall be considered filed when postmarked, if mailed, or when received, if hand delivered.

FNS means the Food and Nutrition Service, USDA.

Hearing means that part of the appeal which involves the submission of evidence before the ALJ for the record in the appeal.

Hearing Clerk means the Hearing Clerk, USDA, Washington, DC 20250.

Judicial Officer means an official of the USDA delegated authority by the Secretary of Agriculture, pursuant to the Act of April 4, 1940 (7 U.S.C. 450c-459g) and Reorganization Plan No. 2 of 1953 (5 U.S.C. 1970 ed., Appendix, P. 550), as amended by Public Law 97-35, title I, sec. 125, 95 Stat. 357, 369 (1981) (7 U.S.C. 2201 note), to perform the adjudicating function involved (7 CFR 2.35(a)), or the Secretary of Agriculture if the authority so delegated is exercised by the Secretary.

OC claim means a claim made pursuant to 7 U.S.C. 2025(c).

Secretary means the Secretary of the USDA.

State agency means:

(1) The agency of State government, including the local offices thereof, which is responsible for the administration of the federally aided public assistance programs within the State, and in those States where such assistance programs are operated on a decentralized basis, it includes the counterpart local agencies which administer such assistance programs for the State agency; and

(2) The Indian tribal organization of any Indian tribe determined by the Secretary to be capable of effectively administering a SNAP in accordance with the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008, as amended, 7 U.S.C. 2011-2032.

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Subpart B—Appeals of QC Claims of $50,000 or More

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§283.4   Filing appeals for QC claims of $50,000 or more.

(a) Time. A State agency may appeal the bill for collection from FNS for a QC claim of $50,000 or more for a SNAP QC error rate in excess of the tolerance level. A State agency shall file a written notice of appeal, in accordance with this subpart, within 10 days of receipt of the bill for collection from FNS for a QC claim of $50,000 or more. The State agency may request an extension to the 10-day filing requirement in accordance with §283.22(f). FNS shall issue the bill for collection by certified mail or personal service.

(b) Exhaustion of administrative remedies. The State agency must appeal the bill for collection to the ALJ, pursuant to this subpart, and exhaust the available administrative remedies before filing suit in the Federal District Courts.

(c) Filing. The notice of appeal shall be filed with the Hearing Clerk in accordance with §283.22(b).

(d) Content of the notice. (1) A notice of appeal, in order to be considered acceptable, must contain the following information:

(i) A brief and clear statement that it is an appeal from a QC claim of $50,000 or more identifying the period the claim covers, the date and amount of the bill for collection, and the date of receipt of the bill for collection;

(ii) Identification of the State agency as the appellant and FNS as the appellee;

(iii) A statement that the notice of appeal is filed pursuant to section 14(a) of the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008;

(iv) A copy of the bill for collection which constitutes the basis for the filing of the notice of appeal shall be attached to the notice.

(2) Failure to file an acceptable notice of appeal may result in a challenge by FNS to the notice, dismissal of the notice by the ALJ and a waiver of the opportunity for further appeal or review by the Judicial Officer unless the State agency pursues the options as discussed in §§283.17(d) and 283.20.

(e) Receipt of notice of appeal and assignment of docket number. Upon receipt of a notice of appeal, the Hearing Clerk shall assign the appeal a docket number. The Hearing Clerk shall:

(1) Send the State agency a letter which shall include the following information:

(i) Advice that the notice of appeal has been received and the date of receipt;

(ii) The docket number assigned to the appeal and instructions that all future communications related to the appeal shall reference the docket number, and;

(iii) Advice that the State agency must file and serve its appeal petition, as set forth in §283.22, not later than 60 days after receiving a notice of the claim. Failure to file a timely appeal petition may result in a waiver of further appeal rights.

(2) Send FNS a copy of the notice of appeal and a copy of the letter to the State agency.

(f) Stay of collection. The filing of a timely notice of appeal shall automatically stay the action of FNS to collect the QC claim asserted against the State agency until a decision is reached on the acceptability of the appeal, and in the case of an acceptable appeal, until a final administrative determination has been issued. However, interest will accrue on the outstanding claim amount during the stay as provided in section 13(a)(1) of the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008, as amended (7 U.S.C. 2022(a)(1)).

(g) Content of the appeal petition. The appeal petition shall include:

(1) A brief statement of the allegations of fact and provisions of law that constitute the basis for the appeal including a statement as to whether a factual basis for good cause relief exists;

(2) The nature of the relief sought, and;

(3) A request for an oral hearing, if desired by the State agency. Failure to request an oral hearing will result in a forfeiture of the opportunity for such a hearing, except as provided in §283.15(a).

(h) FNS answer. Upon service of the State agency appeal petition, FNS shall:

(1) File an answer, in accordance with §283.6, not later than 60 days after the State agency submits its appeal petition and;

(2) Advise the Hearing Clerk if FNS wishes to have an oral hearing.

(i) Oral hearing not requested. If no oral hearing has been requested, the appeal shall proceed in accordance with the procedures set forth under subpart C of this part.

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§283.5   Motion to dismiss.

(a) Filing of motion to dismiss. Prior to or at the same time as filing the answer, FNS may file a motion to dismiss. The appeal may be challenged on the basis that the notice of appeal was not filed within 10 days or as that time may have been extended by the ALJ, the appeal petition was not filed in accordance with §283.4, or that the appeal petition is substantially incomplete and could not be quickly and easily cured by amendment. The motion must be accompanied by clear and convincing proof of any of these factors alleged as grounds for dismissal.

(b) Service of motion to dismiss. FNS shall serve the State agency with a copy of the motion to dismiss. The State agency will have 10 days from date of service to submit objections to the motion.

(c) Ruling on a motion to dismiss. The ALJ will rule on the motion to dismiss before any further action proceeds on the basis of the merits of the appeal. The basis of the ruling will be clearly documented and will become part of the official record. If the ALJ denies the motion, FNS shall file its answer in accordance with §283.6 within 60 days of service of the ALJ's ruling, unless there is a motion for reconsideration filed pursuant to §283.17(d) or review by the Judicial Officer is sought pursuant to §283.20.

(d) Dismissal of appeal. If the ALJ finds the basis for the motion to have merit, the appeal may be dismissed. The initial decision of the ALJ shall become final and effective 30 days after service in accordance with §283.17(c)(2) unless either party pursues the options as discussed in §§283.17(d) and 283.20.

(e) Waiver. Failure to file for dismissal of the appeal by the time the answer is required to be filed will result in waiver of the right to request dismissal.

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§283.6   Answer.

(a) Filing and service. Not later than 60 days after the State agency submits its appeal petition, or within 60 days following service of a ruling in accordance with §283.5, FNS shall file an answer signed by the FNS Administrator or authorized representative or the attorney of record in the appeal. The attorney may file an appearance of record prior to or simultaneously with the filing of the answer.

(b) Contents. The answer shall clearly admit, deny, or explain each of the allegations of the appeal petition and shall:

(1) Clearly set forth any defense asserted by FNS; or

(2) State that FNS admits all the facts alleged in the appeal petition; or

(3) State that FNS admits the jurisdictional allegations of the appeal petition and neither admits nor denies the remaining allegations and consents to the issuance of an order without further procedure.

(c) Default. Failure to file a timely answer shall be deemed, for purposes of the appeal, an admission of the allegations in the appeal petition and failure to deny or otherwise respond to an allegation of the appeal petition shall be deemed for purposes of the appeal, an admission of said allegation, unless FNS and the State agency have agreed to a consent decision pursuant to §283.10.

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§283.7   Procedures upon failure to file an answer.

The failure by FNS to file an answer shall constitute a waiver of hearing. Upon such failure to file, the State agency shall file a proposed decision, along with a motion for adoption thereof, both of which shall be served upon FNS by the State agency. Within 10 days after service of such motion and proposed decision, FNS may file objections thereto. If the ALJ finds that meritorious objections have been filed, the State agency's motion shall be denied with supporting reasons. If meritorious objections are not filed, the ALJ shall issue an initial decision without further procedures or hearing. Copies of the initial decision or denial of the State agency's motion shall be served on each of the parties and shall be included as part of the official record. Where the decision as proposed by the State agency is adopted as the ALJ's initial decision, such decision of the ALJ shall become final and effective 30 days after service in accordance with §283.17(c)(2) unless reconsideration or review by the Judicial Officer is sought as discussed in §§283.17(d) and 283.20.

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§283.8   Rebuttal or amendment of appeal or answer.

(a) Not later than 30 days after FNS submits an answer in accordance with §283.6, the State agency may submit rebuttal evidence.

(b) At any time prior to the filing of a motion for a hearing pursuant to §283.15(b), the appeal petition or the answer may be amended without prior authorization by the ALJ. Thereafter, such an amendment may only be made as authorized by the ALJ upon a showing of cause.

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§283.9   Withdrawal of appeal.

At any time before the ALJ files an initial decision, the State agency may withdraw its appeal and agree to pay the full amount of the claim. By withdrawing an appeal, the State agency waives all opportunity to appeal or seek further administrative or judicial review on the claim or related matters.

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§283.10   Consent decision.

At any time before the ALJ files an initial decision, FNS and the State agency may agree to entry of a consent decision. Such decision shall be filed in the form of a decision signed by the parties with appropriate space for signature by the ALJ and shall contain an admission of at least the jurisdictional facts, consent to the issuance of the agreed decision without further procedure and such other admissions or statements as may be agreed between the parties. The ALJ shall enter such decision without further procedures, unless an error is apparent on the face of the document. Such decision shall be final and shall take effect 30 days after the date of the delivery or service of such decision and is not subject to further administrative or judicial.

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§283.11   Prehearing conference and procedure.

(a) Time and place. The ALJ shall direct the parties or their counsel to participate in a prehearing conference at any reasonable time prior to the hearing. The prehearing conference shall be held at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC. Reasonable notice of the time, place of the prehearing conference and if personal attendance will be necessary shall be given. Prehearing conferences may be conducted telephonically. The ALJ shall order each of the parties to furnish at the prehearing conference or at another time prior to the hearing the following:

(1) An outline of the appeal or defense;

(2) The legal theories upon which the party will rely;

(3) Copies of or a list of documents that the party anticipates relying upon at the hearing; and

(4) A list of witnesses who will testify on behalf of the party. At the discretion of the party furnishing such list of witnesses, the names of the witnesses need not be furnished if they are otherwise identified in some meaningful way, such as a short statement of the type of evidence they will offer.

(b) Procedures. The ALJ shall not order any of the foregoing procedures that a party can show are inappropriate or unwarranted under the circumstances of the particular appeal.

(c) Matters to be considered. At the prehearing conference, the following matters shall be considered:

(1) The simplification of issues;

(2) The necessity of amendments to pleadings;

(3) The possibility of obtaining stipulations of facts and of the authenticity, accuracy, and admissibility of documents, which will avoid unnecessary proof;

(4) The limitation of the number of expert or other witnesses;

(5) Negotiation, compromise, or settlement of issues;

(6) The exchange of copies of proposed exhibits;

(7) The nature of and the date by which discovery, as provided in §283.12, must be completed;

(8) The identification of documents or matters of which official notice may be requested;

(9) A schedule to be followed by the parties for the completion of the actions decided at the conference; and

(10) Such other matters as may expedite and aid in the disposition of the appeal.

(d) Reporting. (1) A prehearing conference will not be stenographically reported unless so directed by the ALJ.

(2) Any party to the appeal may, upon motion, request the ALJ to allow for a stenographic transcript of a prehearing conference. The party requesting the transcript shall bear the transcription cost of producing the transcript and the duplication cost for one transcript provided to the ALJ and to the other parties to the appeal.

(e) Order. Actions taken as a result of a conference shall be reduced to an appropriate written order, unless the ALJ concludes that a stenographic report, if available, shall suffice, or, in the event the conference takes place within 7 days of the beginning of the hearing, the ALJ elects to make a statement on the record at the hearing summarizing the actions taken.

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§283.12   Discovery.

(a) Dispositions—(1) Motion for taking deposition. Only upon a finding by the ALJ that a deposition is necessary to preserve testimony as provided in this subparagraph, upon the motion of a party to the appeal, the ALJ may, at any time after the filing of the answer, order the taking of testimony by deposition. The motion shall set forth:

(i) The name and address of the proposed deponent;

(ii) The name and address of the person (referred to hereafter in this section as the “officer”) qualified under the regulations in this part to take depositions, before whom the proposed examination is to be made;

(iii) The proposed time and place of the examination, which shall be at least 15 days after the date of service of the motion; and

(iv) The reasons why such deposition should be taken, which shall be solely for the purpose of eliciting testimony which otherwise might not be available at the time of the hearing, for use as provided in accordance with paragraph (a)(7) of this section.

(2) ALJ's order for taking depositions. If the ALJ finds that the testimony may not otherwise be available at the hearing, the taking of the deposition may be ordered. The order shall be served upon the parties, and shall state:

(i) The time and place of the examination;

(ii) The name of the officer before whom the examination is to be made; and

(iii) The name of the deponent. The officer and the time and place need not be the same as those suggested in the motion.

(3) Qualifications of officer. The deposition shall be made before an officer authorized by the law of the United States or by the law of the place of the examination to administer oaths, or before an officer authorized by the Secretary to administer oaths.

(4) Procedure on examination. (i) The deponent shall be examined under oath or affirmation and shall be subject to cross-examination. Objections to questions or documents shall be in the short form, stating the grounds of objections relied upon. The questions propounded, together with all objections made (but not including argument or debate), shall be recorded verbatim. In lieu of oral examination, parties may transmit written questions to the officer prior to the examination and the officer shall propound such questions to the deponent.

(ii) The party taking the deposition shall arrange for the examination of the witness either by oral examination, or by written questions upon agreement of the parties or as directed by the ALJ. If the examination is conducted by means of written questions, copies of the questions shall be served upon the other party to the appeal and filed with the officer at least 10 days prior to the date set for the examination unless otherwise agreed, and the other party may serve cross questions and file them with the officer at any time prior to the time of the examination.

(iii) The parties may stipulate in writing or the ALJ may upon motion order that a deposition be taken by telephone. A deposition taken by telephone is to be taken at the place where the deponent is to answer questions propounded to the deponent.

(iv) The parties may stipulate in writing or the ALJ may upon motion order that a deposition be recorded by other than stenographic means. The stipulation or the order shall designate the manner of recording, preserving and filing of the deposition, and may include other provisions to assure that the recorded testimony is accurate and trustworthy.

(5) Certification by the officer. The officer shall certify on the deposition that the deponent was duly sworn and that the deposition is a true record of the deponent's testimony. The officer shall then securely seal the deposition, together with one copy thereof (unless there are more than two parties in the appeal, in which case there should be another copy for each additional party), in an envelope and mail the same by registered or certified mail to the Hearing Clerk.

(6) Corrections to the transcript. (i) At any time prior to the hearing, any party may file a motion proposing corrections to the transcript of the deposition.

(ii) Unless a party files such a motion in the manner prescribed, the transcript shall be presumed to be a true, correct, and complete transcript of the testimony given in the deposition proceeding and to contain an accurate description or reference to all exhibits in connection therewith, and shall be deemed to be certified correct without further procedure.

(iii) At any time prior to the use of the deposition in accordance with paragraph (a)(7) of this section and after consideration of any objections filed thereto, the ALJ may issue an order making any corrections in the transcript which the ALJ finds are warranted, and these corrections shall be entered onto the original transcript by the Hearing Clerk (without obscuring the original text).

(7) Use of depositions. A deposition ordered and taken in accordance with the provisions of this section may be used in an appeal under these rules if the ALJ finds that the evidence is otherwise admissible and

(i) That the witness is deceased;

(ii) That the witness is unable to attend or testify because of age, sickness, infirmity, or imprisonment;

(iii) That the party offering the deposition has endeavored to procure the attendance of the witness by subpoena, but has been unable to do so; or

(iv) That such exceptional circumstances exist as to make it desirable, in the interests of justice, to allow the deposition to be used. If the party upon whose motion the deposition was taken refuses to offer it in evidence, any other party may offer the deposition or any part thereof in evidence. If only part of a deposition is offered in evidence by a party, any other party may require the introduction of any other part which is relevant be considered with the part introduced, and any party may introduce any other parts.

(b) Interrogatories, requests for admissions and requests for production of documents—(1) Interrogatories. A party may submit written interrogatories to any other party to an appeal. The time for submitting and responding to written interrogatories shall be set by the ALJ at the pre-hearing conference, but in no event shall the time for response be less than 20 days from the date of service or within such time as determined upon motion to the ALJ. The number of interrogatories submitted by each party shall not exceed twenty-five questions including subparts, unless additional interrogatories are authorized by the ALJ. Each interrogatory should be answered separately and fully in writing, unless it is objected to, in which event the reasons for objection should be stated in lieu of an answer. The answers are to be signed under penalty of perjury by the person making them. Objections shall be signed by the attorney of record in the appeal or by the responding party's authorized representative.

(2) Request for admissions. A party may submit a written request for admission of the truth of any matters relevant to the appeal to any other party to the appeal. The time for submitting a written request for admission shall be set by the ALJ at the pre-hearing conference. The number of admissions contained in a request submitted by a party shall not exceed twenty-five unless additional admissions are authorized by the ALJ. The matter is admitted unless, within 20 days after service thereof, or within such time as determined upon motion to the ALJ, the party to whom the request is directed serves upon the party requesting the admission a written answer or objection addressed to the matter signed by the party, counsel or designated representative. If objection is made, the reasons therefor should be stated. The answer should specifically deny the matter or set forth in detail why the answering party cannot truthfully admit or deny the matter. An answering party may not give lack of information or knowledge as a reason for the failure to admit or deny unless it is stated that reasonable inquiry has been made and that the information known or readily obtainable is insufficient to enable the party to admit or deny. A party who considers that a matter for which an admission has been requested presents a genuine issue for hearing may not, on that ground alone, object to the request; the party may deny the matter or set forth reasons why the matter cannot be admitted or denied.

(3) Request for production of documents. (i) Any party may serve upon any other party to the appeal a request for production of documents which are in the possession or control of the party upon whom the request is served. The time for service and response to such a request shall be set by the ALJ at the pre-hearing conference. Upon payment of fees for search and duplication of documents, any party to the appeal may obtain copies of such documents.

(ii) Parties may request production of any documents regarding any matter, not privileged, which is relevant to the subject matter involved in the pending action. Grounds for objection will not exist if the information sought appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.

(iii) If such documents include privileged information or information the disclosure of which is proscribed by the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008, as amended, such documents need not be produced.

(c) Supplementation of response. A party who knows or later learns that a response is incorrect is under a duty to correct such response as soon as possible. A party who has responded to a request for discovery with a response that was complete when made is under a duty to supplement the response to include information thereafter acquired. A party is under a duty to supplement responses with respect to any question directly addressed to:

(1) The identity and location of persons having knowledge of discoverable matters, and

(2) The identity of each person expected to be called as an expert witness at the hearing, the subject matter on which such expert(s) is expected to testify, and the substance of the testimony.

(d) Frequency and use of discovery. The ALJ shall limit, upon motion of a party, the frequency or extent of discovery if the ALJ determines that:

(1) The discovery sought is unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or is obtainable from some other source that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive;

(2) The party seeking discovery has had ample opportunity by discovery in the action to obtain the information sought; or

(3) The discovery is unduly burdensome or expensive, taking into account the needs of the case, the amount in controversy, limitations on the parties' resources, and the importance of the issues at stake in the litigation.

(e) Protective orders—(1) Request for protective order. A party served with such a request may file a motion for a protective order before the date on which a response to the discovery request is due, stating why discovery should be limited or should not be required.

(2) Issuance of protective order. In issuing a protective order, the ALJ may make any order which justice requires to protect a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression or undue burden or expense, including one or more of the following:

(i) That discovery not be had;

(ii) That the discovery may be had only through a method of discovery other than that requested;

(iii) That certain matters not be inquired into, or that the scope of discovery be limited to certain matters;

(iv) That discovery be conducted with no one present except persons designated by the ALJ; and

(v) That the contents of discovery or evidence be sealed.

(f) Failure to respond to discovery—(1) Motions to compel. If a deponent fails to respond or gives an evasive or incomplete answer to a question propounded at a deposition pursuant to paragraph (a) of this section or a party fails to respond or gives evasive or incomplete answers to written interrogatories or admissions, or fails to respond, in full or in part, to a request for production of documents served pursuant to paragraph (b) of this section, the party seeking discovery may apply for an order compelling an answer by filing and serving a motion on all parties and deponents.

(2) Filing motion to compel. (i) Such motion must be filed within 20 days following the service of the unresponsive answer upon deposition or within 20 days after expiration of the period allowed for answers to interrogatories or production of documents.

(ii) On matters related to an oral examination, the proponent of the question may complete or adjourn the examination before he applies for an order.

(3) Responding to motion to compel. A response to the motion may be filed in accordance with §283.18(d).

(g) Decision of the ALJ. (1) The ALJ may grant a motion to compel production or deny a motion for a protective order only if the ALJ finds that the discovery sought is necessary for the expeditious, fair, and reasonable consideration of the issues; it is not unduly costly or burdensome; it will not unduly delay the proceeding; and the information sought is not privileged.

(2) The initial decision of the ALJ regarding the motion to compel the production of privileged documents or the motion for a protective order shall become final and effective 10 days after service unless either party pursues the options as discussed in §§283.17(d) and 283.20.

(h) Failure to comply with an order. (1) If a party or other witness refuses to be sworn or refuses to answer any question after being directed to do so by order of the ALJ, such refusal may subject the refusing party to proceedings to compel compliance with the ALJ's order in the appropriate United States district court.

(2) If any party or other person refuses to obey an order made under this section requiring an answer to designated questions or production of documents, the ALJ may order that the matters regarding which questions were asked or the contents of the document or documents or any other designated facts should be taken to be established for the purposes of the proceeding in accordance with the claim of the party obtaining the order.

(i) Postponements or delays. No hearing, proceeding or other matter under this part shall be postponed or otherwise delayed pending the response or resolution of issues pertaining to a request for information pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. 552.

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§283.13   Subpoenas.

(a) Issuance of subpoenas. The attendance and testimony of witnesses and the production of documentary evidence from any place in the United States on behalf of any party to the appeal may be required by subpoena at the designated place of hearing. Except for cause shown, requests for subpoenas shall be filed at least 15 days prior to the date of the hearing. Subpoenas shall be issued by the ALJ, over the facsimile signature of the Secretary, upon a reasonable showing by the applicant of the grounds, necessity and reasonable scope thereof.

(b) Service of subpoenas. (1) When the ALJ issues a subpoena under this section, the party who requested such subpoena shall serve all other parties with a copy of the subpoena, notice of the names and addresses of the individuals subpoenaed and specify any documents required to be produced.

(2) Subpoenas may be served:

(i) By a U.S. Marshal or deputy marshal,

(ii) By any other person who is not less than 18 years of age, or

(iii) By registering and mailing a copy of the subpoena addressed to the person to be served at the last known principal place of business or residence.

(3) Proof of service may be made:

(i) By the return of service on the subpoena by the U.S. Marshal or deputy marshal,

(ii) If served by an employee of the Department, by a certificate stating that he personally served the subpoena upon the person named therein,

(iii) If served by another person, by an affidavit of such person stating that he personally served the subpoena upon the person named therein, or

(iv) If service was by registered mail, by an affidavit made by the person mailing the subpoena that it was mailed as provided herein and by the signed return post-office receipt. Where the subpoena is issued on behalf of the Secretary and service is by mail, the return receipt without an affidavit or certificate of mailing shall be sufficient proof of service.

(4) In making personal service, the person making service shall leave a copy of the subpoena with the person subpoenaed, or, if such person is not immediately available, with any other responsible person authorized to accept service residing or employed at the place of residence or business of the person subpoenaed.

(5) The original of the subpoena, bearing or accompanied by the required proof of service, shall be returned to the official who issued the same. The party at whose request the subpoena is issued shall be responsible for the service thereof.

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§283.14   Fees of witnesses.

Witnesses summoned under these rules shall be paid the same fees and expenses that are paid witnesses in the courts of the United States. Fees shall be paid by the party at whose request the witness appears. Current Federal, State, or local government employees shall not be eligible to receive witness fees.

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§283.15   Procedure for hearing.

(a) Request for hearing. A party may request a hearing on the facts by including such request in its Appeal Petition or Answer, whichever is appropriate. Failure to request a hearing within the time specified shall constitute a waiver of the opportunity for such a hearing, except as provided for under §283.4(i). In the event FNS denies any material facts and fails to request a hearing, the matter may be set down for hearing on motion of the State agency or upon the ALJ's own motion.

(b) Time and place. If any material issue of fact is joined by the pleadings, the ALJ, upon motion of any party, stating that the matter is ready for hearing, shall set a time for the hearing, as soon as feasible thereafter, with due regard for the public interest and the convenience and necessity of the State agency and FNS. The hearing shall be held at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC. Upon a showing of unusual or extraordinary circumstances, the ALJ may order that the hearing be held at another location. The ALJ shall file a notice stating the time and place of the hearing. If any change in the time of the hearing is made, the ALJ shall file a notice of such change, which notice shall be served upon the parties, unless it is made during the course of an oral hearing and made a part of the transcript or actual notice given to the parties.

(c) Appearances. The parties may appear in person or by attorney of record in the appeal or by any other designated representative. Any person who appears as attorney or as a party's designated representative must conform to the standards of ethical conduct required by practitioners before the courts of the United States.

(d) Exchange of witness and rebuttal witness lists, statements and exhibits. (1) Witness and rebuttal witness lists, copies of prior statements of proposed witnesses, and copies of proposed hearing exhibits, including copies of any written statements or depositions that a party intends to offer in lieu of live testimony in accordance with §283.12(a)(7), shall be exchanged at least 15 days in advance of the hearing or at such other time as may be set by the ALJ.

(2) A witness whose name does not appear on the witness list shall not be permitted to testify and exhibits which were not provided to the opposing party as provided above shall not be admitted into evidence at the hearing absent a showing of cause and as authorized by the ALJ.

(e) Deparment of attorney or representative. (1) Whenever an ALJ finds that a person acting as attorney or designated representative for any party to the appeal is guilty of unethical or contumacious conduct in, or in connection with an appeal, the ALJ may order that such person be precluded from further acting as attorney or representative in the appeal. Review by the Judicial Officer may be taken on any such order, but no appeal of the QC claim shall be delayed or suspended pending disposition of the debarment review by the Judicial Officer. Provided, however, that the ALJ shall suspend the appeal of the QC claim for a reasonable time for the purpose of enabling the party to obtain another attorney or representative.

(2) Whenever it is found, after notice and opportunity for hearing, that a person who is acting or who has acted as attorney or representative for another person in any proceeding before the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is unfit to act as such counsel because of such unethical or contumacious conduct, such person will be precluded from acting as the attorney or representative in any or all proceedings before the Department as found to be appropriate.

(f) Failure to appear. (1) If FNS or the State agency, after being duly notified, fails to appear at the hearing without cause, that party shall be deemed to have waived the opportunity for an oral hearing and to have admitted any facts which may be presented at the hearing. Such failure by either party shall also constitute an admission of all the material allegations of fact contained in any pleadings submitted by the other party. The party who appears shall have the option of whether to follow the procedure under §283.7 or to present evidence, in whole or in part, in the form of declarations or by oral testimony before the ALJ.

(2) Failure to appear at a hearing shall not be deemed to be a waiver of the right to be served with a copy of the ALJ's initial decision, to file a motion for reconsideration pursuant to §283.17(d) or to seek review by the Judicial Officer in accordance with §283.20.

(g) Order of proceeding. Except as may be decided otherwise by the ALJ, FNS shall proceed first at the hearing. FNS has the burden of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, the QC claim against the State agency for a QC error rate in excess of the tolerance level. The State agency will proceed second and must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, the facts upon which it bases its appeal.

(h) Evidence. (1) The testimony of witnesses at a hearing shall be on oath or affirmation and subject to cross-examination.

(2) Upon a finding of cause, the ALJ may order that any witness be examined separately and apart from all other witnesses except those who may be parties to the appeal or whose presence is shown by a party to be essential to the presentation of the party's cause.

(3) After a witness called by either party has testified on direct examination, any other party may request and obtain the production of any statement, or part thereof, of such witness in the possession of the opposing party which relates to the subject matter as to which the witness has testified. Such production shall be made according to the procedures and subject to the definitions and limitations prescribed in the Jencks Act (18 U.S.C. 3500).

(4) Evidence which is immaterial, irrelevant, or unduly repetitious, or which is not of the sort upon which responsible persons are accustomed to rely, shall be excluded by order of the ALJ insofar as practicable.

(i) Inclusion in the record. At the oral hearing or as ordered by the ALJ, depositions to the extent deemed admissible, written interrogatories, written requests for admission and respective responses may be offered in evidence by the party at whose instance they were taken. If not offered by such party, they may be offered in whole or in part by any other party. If only part of a deposition, written interrogatory, written request for admission or response thereto is offered in evidence by a party, any other party may require that all of it, which is relevant to the part introduced, be offered, and any party may introduce any other parts. Such depositions, written interrogatories, written requests for admission and respective responses thereto shall be admissible in evidence subject to such objections as to relevancy, materiality or competency of the testimony as were noted at the time of their taking or are made at the time they are offered in evidence.

(j) Objections. (1) If a party objects to the admission of any evidence or to the limitation of the scope of any examination or cross examination or to any other ruling by the ALJ, the party shall state briefly the grounds of such objection, whereupon an automatic exception will follow if the objection is overruled by the ALJ.

(2) Only objections made before the ALJ may be subsequently relied upon on review by the Judicial Officer.

(k) Exhibits. Four copies of each exhibit shall be filed with the ALJ. However, where there are more than two parties in the appeal, an additional copy shall be filed for each additional party. A true copy of an exhibit may be substituted for the original.

(l) Official records or documents. An official government record or document or entry therein, if admissible for any purpose, shall be admissible in evidence without the production of the person who made or prepared the same, and shall be prima facie evidence of the relevant facts stated therein. Such record or document shall be evidenced by an official publication thereof or by a copy certified by a person having legal authority to make such certification.

(m) Official notice. Official notice shall be taken of such matters as are judicially noticed by the courts of the United States and of any other matter of technical, scientific, or commercial fact of established character. Provided, that the parties shall be given adequate opportunity to show that such facts are erroneously noticed.

(n) Offer of proof. Whenever evidence is excluded by the ALJ, the party offering such evidence may make an offer of proof, which shall be included in the transcript. The offer of proof shall consist of a brief statement describing the evidence excluded. If the evidence consists of a brief oral statement, it shall be included in the transcript in toto. If the evidence consists of a document or other exhibit, it shall be marked for identification and inserted in the hearing record. In either event, if the Judicial Officer, upon review, determines that the ALJ's ruling excluding the evidence was erroneous and prejudicial, the evidence shall be considered a part of the transcript and hearing record. If the Judicial Officer determines that the ALJ's ruling excluding the evidence was erroneous and prejudicial, and that it would inappropriate to have such evidence considered a part of the hearing record without reopening the hearing, the Judicial Officer may direct that the hearing be reopened to permit the taking of such evidence or for any other purpose in connection with the excluded evidence.

(o) Transcript. Hearings shall be recorded and transcribed verbatim. The party requesting the hearing shall bear the transcription cost of producing the transcript and the duplication cost for one transcript provided to the ALJ and to the other parties to the appeal.

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§283.16   Consolidation of issues.

Similar issues involved in appeals by two or more State agencies may be consolidated upon motion by the State agencies, FNS, or at the discretion of the ALJ if it is decided that consolidation would help to promote administrative efficiency.

(a) Disposition of consolidated issues. If the ALJ orders consolidation, the issues consolidated will be considered first. If a hearing has been requested by any of the parties that have had issues consolidated, arguments on the consolidated issues will be heard before arguments on dissimilar issues. The ALJ will take the information into consideration along with arguments on other issues in preparing initial decisions for QC appeals in which some issues have been consolidated.

(b) Initial decision. (1) If the ALJ decides the evidence and arguments by the State agencies on the consolidated issues cannot be overcome by the evidence presented by FNS and are sufficient to grant the relief requested by a State agency or all State agencies in which the issue is involved, the ALJ shall prepare an initial decision as provided in §283.17(c).

(2) FNS may file a motion for reconsideration pursuant to §283.17(d) or seek review by the Judicial Officer in accordance with §283.20.

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§283.17   Post-hearing procedure.

(a) Corrections to transcript. (1) At any time, but not later than the time fixed for filing proposed findings of fact, conclusions of law, order and briefs, any party may file a motion proposing corrections to the transcript.

(2) Unless a party files such a motion in the matter prescribed, the transcript shall be presumed to be a true, correct, and complete transcript of the testimony given at the hearing and to contain an accurate description or reference to all exhibits received in evidence and made part of the hearing record. The transcript shall be deemed to be certified without further action by the ALJ.

(3) At any time prior to the filing of the ALJ's initial decision and after consideration of any objections filed as to the transcript, the ALJ may issue an order making any corrections in the transcript that the ALJ finds are warranted. Such corrections shall be entered into the original transcript by the Hearing Clerk (without obscuring the original text).

(b) Proposed findings of fact, conclusions of law, order, and briefs. The parties may file proposed findings of fact, conclusions of law and orders based solely upon the record and on officially noticed matters, and briefs in support thereof. briefs may be filed at the discretion of the ALJ. The ALJ shall announce at the hearing the time within which these documents may be filed.

(c) ALJ's initial decision. (1) The ALJ shall decide the appeal not later than 60 days after receipt of rebuttal evidence submitted by the State agency or, if the State agency does not submit rebuttal evidence, not later than 90 days after the State agency submits the notice of appeal and evidence in support of the appeal. In accordance with §283.22(f), the ALJ may, upon motion or sua sponte, extend this deadline for cause shown.

(2) The ALJ shall prepare, upon the basis of the record and officially noticed matters, and shall file, an initial decision which shall include a decision on a request for good cause relief, a copy of which shall be served upon each of the parties.

(3) Such initial decision shall be considered final for purposes of judicial review without further proceedings, unless there is a motion for reconsideration filed pursuant to §283.17(d) or review by the Judicial Officer is sought pursuant to §283.20.

(4) If no motion for reconsideration or review by the Judicial Officer is filed, the initial decision shall constitute the final notice of determination for purposes of judicial review and shall become effective 30 day after service.

(d) Motion for reconsideration. (1) Except as provided in paragraph (d)(4) of this section, any party may file a motion for reconsideration of the initial decision within 30 days of service of the initial decision. If served by mail, the time for filing a motion for reconsideration will be 5 days longer in accordance with §283.22.

(2) Every such motion must set forth the mattes claimed to have been erroneously decided and the basis of the alleged errors. Such motion shall be accompanied by a supporting brief.

(3) Responses to such motions shall be filed in accordance with §283.18(d).

(4) No party may file a motion for reconsideration of an initial decision that has been revised in response to a previous motion for reconsideration.

(5) The ALJ may dispose of a motion for reconsideration by denying it or by issuing a revised initial decision.

(6) If the ALJ denies a motion for reconsideration, the initial decision shall constitute the final notice of determination for purposes of judicial review and shall become effective 30 days after service unless review by the Judicial Officer is sought in accordance with §283.20.

(7) If the ALJ issues a revised initial decision, that decision shall constitute the final notice of determination for purposes of judicial review and shall become effective 30 days after service unless review by the Judicial Officer is sought in accordance with §283.20.

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§283.18   Motions and requests.

(a) Filing. All motions and requests shall be filed with the Hearing Clerk, and served upon all the parties by the moving or requesting party, except motions and requests made on the record during the oral hearing. The ALJ assigned to the appeal or the Chief Judge shall rule upon all motions and requests filed or made prior to seeking review of the ALJ's initial decision pursuant to §283.20, except motions directly relating to such review. Thereafter, the Judicial Officer shall rule on any motions and requests as well as the motions directly relating to the review of the ALJ's initial decision.

(b) Time for filing. Any motion or request may be filed at any time, except that:

(1) Motions to dismiss pursuant to §283.5 must be filed within the time allowed for filing an answer; and

(2) Motions for reconsideration must be filed within 30 days of service of the ALJ's initial decision pursuant to §283.17(d).

(c) Contents. All written motions and requests shall state the particular order, ruling, or action desired and the grounds therefor.

(d) Response to motions and requests. Within 10 days after service of any written motion or request or within such shorter or longer period as may be fixed by the ALJ or Judicial Officer, an opposing party may file a response to the motion or request. The moving party shall have no right to reply to the response; however, the ALJ or Judicial Officer may order that a reply be filed.

(e) Certification to the Judicial Officer. The submission or certification of any motion, request, objection, or other question to the Judicial Officer prior to the seeking of review pursuant to §283.20 shall be made by and in the discretion of the ALJ. The ALJ may either rule upon or certify the motion, request, objection, or other question to the Judicial Officer, but not both.

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§283.19   ALJs.

(a) Assignment. No ALJ shall be assigned to serve in any appeal who:

(1) Has any pecuniary interest in any matter or business involved in the appeal,

(2) Is related by blood or marriage to any party in the appeal, or

(3) Has any conflict of interest which might impair the ALJ's objectivity in the appeal.

(b) Disqualification of ALJ. (1) Any party to the appeal may, by motion, request that the ALJ withdraw from the appeal on one or more of the grounds set out in paragraph (a) of this section. Such motion shall set forth with particularity the alleged grounds for disqualification. The ALJ may then either rule upon or certify the motion to the Judicial Officer, but not both.

(2) The ALJ may withdraw from any appeal for any reason deemed by the ALJ to be disqualifying.

(c) Powers. (1) Subject to review as provided elsewhere in this part, the ALJ, in any assigned appeal, shall have the power to:

(i) Rule upon motions and requests;

(ii) Set the time and place of a pre-hearing conference and the time of the hearing, adjourn the hearing from time to time, and change the time of the hearing;

(iii) Administer oaths and affirmations;

(iv) Regulate the scope and timing of discovery;

(v) Issue and enforce subpoenas as authorized under 7 U.S.C. 2023(a) and these rules;

(vi) Summon and examine witnesses and receive evidence at the hearing;

(vii) Appoint expert witnesses in accordance with the provisions of Rule 706 of the Federal Rules of Evidence;

(viii) Admit or exclude evidence;

(ix) Hear oral argument on facts or law;

(x) Upon motion of a party, decide cases, in whole or in part, by non-oral hearing procedures under subpart C of this part where there is no disputed material issue of fact;

(xi) Perform all acts and take all measures necessary for the maintenance of order, including the exclusion of contumacious counsel or other persons;

(xii) Take all other actions authorized under the Act and these rules, including the extension of time upon motion of a party or sua sponte for cause shown.

(2) The ALJ may not rule upon the validity of Federal statutes or regulations.

(d) Who may act in the absence of the ALJ. In case of the absence of the ALJ or the ALJ's inability to act, the powers and duties to be performed by the ALJ under these rules of practice in connection with any assigned appeal may, without abatement of the appeal, unless otherwise directed by the Chief Judge, be assigned to any other ALJ.

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§283.20   Review by the Judicial Officer.

(a) Filing of review petition. (1) Within 30 days after service of the ALJ's initial decision, or any part thereof, any party may seek Judicial Officer review of such decision by filing a review petition with the Hearing Clerk. However, if another party files a motion for reconsideration under §283.17(d), consideration of the review petition shall be stayed automatically pending resolution of the motion for reconsideration. If a motion for reconsideration is timely filed, a review petition may be filed within 30 days after the ALJ denies the motion or issues a revised initial decision, whichever applies.

(2) As provided in §283.15(h), objections made before the ALJ regarding evidence or regarding a limitation on examination or cross-examination or other ruling may be relied upon in a Judicial Officer review.

(3) Each issue set forth in the review petition, and the arguments thereon, shall be plainly and concisely stated; and shall contain detailed citations to the record, statutes, regulations or authorities being relied upon in support thereof. A brief in support may be filed simultaneously with the review petition.

(b) Response to review petition. Within 30 days after service of a copy of a review petition and any brief in support thereof, any other party to the proceedings may file a response in support of or in opposition to the review petition and in such response any relevant issue, not presented in the review petition, may be raised.

(c) Transmittal of the record. (1) Whenever a review petition of an ALJ's initial decision is filed and a response thereto has been filed or time for filing a response has expired, the Hearing Clerk shall transmit to the Judicial Officer the record of the appeal.

(2) Such record shall include: The pleadings; motions and requests filed and rulings thereon; the transcript of the testimony taken at the hearing, together with the exhibits filed in connection therewith; any documents or papers filed in connection with a prehearing conference; such proposed findings of fact, conclusions of law, orders, and briefs in support thereof, as may have been filed in connection with the appeal; the ALJ's initial decision; the motion for reconsideration of the ALJ's initial decision; the ALJ's initial decision on the motion for reconsideration and the review petition, and such briefs in support thereof and responses thereto as may have been filed.

(d) Oral argument. A party filing a review petition may request, within the prescribed time for filing such review petition, an opportunity for oral argument before the Judicial Officer. Within the time allowed for filing a response, the responding party may file a request for such oral argument. Failure to make such request to appear before the Judicial Officer, within the prescribed time period, shall be deemed a waiver of the opportunity for oral argument. There is no right to appear personally before the Judicial Officer. The Judicial Officer may grant, refuse, or limit any request for oral argument. Oral argument shall not be transcribed unless so ordered in advance by the Judicial Officer for cause shown upon request of a party or upon the Judicial Officer's own motion.

(e) Scope of argument. Argument to be heard by the Judicial Officer on review, whether oral or on brief, shall be limited to the issues raised in the review petition to the Judicial Officer or in the response to such petition, except that if the Judicial Officer determines that additional issues should be argued, the parties shall be given reasonable notice of such determination, so as to permit adequate preparation on all issues to be argued.

(f) Notice of argument; postponement. The Hearing Clerk shall advise all parties of the time and place at which oral argument will be heard. A request for postponement of the argument must be made by motion filed within a reasonable time in advance of the date fixed for argument.

(g) Order of argument. The appellant is entitled to commence and conclude the argument.

(h) Submission of briefs. By agreement of the parties, a review may be submitted for decision on the briefs, but the Judicial Officer may direct that the review be argued orally.

(i) Additional evidence. If any party demonstrates to the satisfaction of the Judicial Officer that additional evidence not presented to the ALJ is material, not cumulative, and that there were reasonable grounds for the failure to present such evidence to the ALJ, the Judicial Officer shall remand the matter to the ALJ for consideration of such additional evidence.

(j) Decision of the Judicial Officer on review. (1) As soon as practicable after the receipt of the record from the Hearing Clerk, or, in case oral argument was had, as soon as practicable thereafter, the Judicial Officer, upon the basis of the record and any matter of which official notice is taken, shall rule on the review.

(2) The Judicial Officer may adopt, reduce, reverse, compromise, remand or approve settlement of any claim initially decided by the ALJ under this part.

(3) The Judicial Officer shall promptly serve each party to the appeal with a copy of the ruling of the Judicial Officer which shall be considered the final determination and contain a statement describing the right to seek judicial review.

(4) Judicial review must be sought within 30 days of service of the final notice of determination by the Judicial Officer pursuant to 7 U.S.C. 2023(a).

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§283.21   Ex parte communications.

(a) ALJ; Judicial Officer. At no time prior to the issuance of the final decision shall the ALJ or Judicial Officer discuss ex parte the merits of the appeal or review with any person who is connected with the appeal or review in an advocative or in an investigative capacity, or with any representative of such person. However, procedural matters shall not be included within this limitation; and furthermore, the ALJ or Judicial Officer may discuss the merits of the case with such a person if all parties to the appeal or review, or their attorneys have been given notice and an opportunity to participate. A memorandum of such discussion shall be included in the record.

(b) Parties; interested persons. No party or other interested person shall make or knowingly cause to be made to the ALJ or Judicial Officer an ex parte communication relevant to the merits of the appeal or review.

(c) Procedure. If the ALJ or Judicial Officer receives an ex parte communication in violation of this section, the one who receives the communication shall place in the public record of the appeal or review:

(1) All such written communications;

(2) Memoranda stating the substance of all such oral communications; and

(3) Copies of all written responses, and memoranda stating the substance of all oral responses thereto.

(4) Upon receipt of a communication knowingly made or knowingly caused to be made by a party in violation of this section, the ALJ or Judicial Officer may, to the extent consistent with the interests of justice and the policy of the underlying statute, require the party to show cause why its claim or interest in the appeal or review should not be dismissed, denied, disregarded or otherwise adversely affected on account of such violation.

(d) Decision. To the extent consistent with the interests of justice and the policy of the underlying statute, a violation of this section shall be sufficient grounds for a decision adverse to the party who knowingly commits a violation of this section or who knowingly causes such a violation to occur.

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§283.22   Form; filing; service; proof of service; computation of time; and extensions of time.

(a) Form. (1) The original and two copies of all papers in a proceeding conducted under this subpart shall be filed with the Hearing Clerk.

(2) Every pleading and paper filed in the proceeding shall contain a caption setting forth the title of the action, the docket number assigned by the Hearing Clerk, and a descriptive title (e.g., Motion for Extension of Time).

(3) Every pleading and paper shall be signed by and contain the address and telephone number of the representative for the party on whose behalf the paper was filed.

(b) Filing. Papers are considered filed when they are postmarked, or, received, if hand delivered. Date of mailing may be established by a certificate from the party or representative or by proof that the document was sent by certified or registered mail.

(c) Service. A party filing a document with the ALJ shall, at the time of filing, serve a copy of such document on every other party. Service upon any party of any document shall be made by delivering or mailing a copy to the party's last known address. When a party is represented by an attorney or designated representative, service shall be made upon such attorney or representative in lieu of the actual party.

(d) Proof of service. A certificate of the person serving the document by personal delivery or by mail, setting forth the date, time and manner of service, shall be proof of service.

(e) Computation of time. (1) In computing any period of time under this part or in an order issued thereunder, the time begins with the day following the act, event, or default, and includes the last day of the period, unless it is a Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday observed by the Federal Government, in which event it includes the next business day.

(2) When a document has been served by mail, an additional five days will be added to the time permitted for any response.

(f) Extensions of time. Requests for extensions of time shall be submitted to the ALJ, Chief Judge or the Judicial Officer prior to the expiration of the original due date. The time for the filing of any document or paper required or authorized under the rules in this part may be extended by the ALJ, Chief Judge or the Judicial Officer, if, in the judgment of the ALJ, Chief Judge or the Judicial Officer, there is cause for the extension. In instances where the time permits notice of the request for extension, time shall be given to the other party to submit views concerning the request.

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§283.23   Procedural matters.

(a) Communications from Hearing Clerk. In order to expedite the appeal process, the Hearing Clerk may develop form letters and transmittal forms to be used for notices, service of papers, requests for information, and all other communications between the Hearing Clerk's Office and the parties.

(b) Representation. All parties may be represented by attorneys or by designated representatives. Attorneys or designated representatives appearing for the parties shall file formal notices of appearances and withdrawals with the Hearing Clerk.

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Subpart C—Summary Procedure for Appeals of QC Claims of Less Than $50,000

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§283.24   Incorporation of procedures by reference.

Except as otherwise provided, the following procedures detailed in subpart B of this part shall apply to appeals of QC claims of less than $50,000: §§283.5 Motion to Dismiss; 283.6 Answer; 283.8 Rebuttal or Amendment of Appeal or Answer; 283.9 Withdrawal of Appeal; 283.10 Consent Decision; 283.18 Motions and Requests; 283.19 ALJ's; 283.20 Review by the Judicial Officer; 283.21 Ex Parte Communications; 283.22 Filings; Service; Extensions of Time; and Computations of Time; and 283.23 Procedural Matters.

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§283.25   Filing appeals for QC claims of less than $50,000.

(a) Time. A State agency may appeal the bill for collection from FNS for a QC claim of less than $50,000 for a SNAP QC error rate in excess of the tolerance level. A State agency must file a written notice of appeal, in accordance with this section, within 10 days of receipt of the bill for collection from FNS for a QC claim of less than $50,000. The State agency may request an extension to the 10-day filing requirement in accordance with §283.22(f). FNS shall issue the bill for collection by certified mail or personal service.

(b) Exhaustion of administrative remedies. The State agency must appeal the bill for collection to the ALJ, pursuant to this subpart, and exhaust the available administrative remedies before filing suit in the Federal District Courts.

(c) Filing. The notice of appeal shall be filed with the Hearing Clerk.

(d) Content of the notice of appeal. (1) A notice of appeal, in order to be considered acceptable must contain the following information:

(i) A brief and clear statement that it is an appeal from a QC claim of less than $50,000 identifying the period the claim covers, the date and amount of the bill for collection, and the date of receipt of the bill for collection;

(ii) Identification of the State agency as the appellant and FNS as the appellee;

(iii) A statement that the notice of appeal is filed pursuant to section 14(a) of the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008;

(iv) A true copy of the bill for collection which constitutes the basis for the filing of the notice of appeal shall be attached to the notice.

(2) Failure to file an acceptable notice of appeal may result in a challenge by FNS to the notice and dismissal of the notice by the ALJ and a waiver of the opportunity for further appeal or review by the Judicial Officer unless the State agency pursues the options as discussed in §§283.17(d) and 283.20.

(e) Receipt of notice of appeal and assignment of docket number. Upon receipt of a notice of appeal, the Hearing Clerk shall assign the appeal a docket number. The Hearing Clerk shall:

(1) Send the State agency a letter which shall include the following information:

(i) Advise that the notice of appeal has been received and the date of receipt;

(ii) The docket number assigned to the appeal and instructions that all future communications related to the appeal shall reference the docket number, and;

(iii) That the State agency must file and serve its appeal petition, as set forth in §283.22 not later than 60 days after receiving a notice of the claim. Failure to file a timely appeal petition may result in a waiver of further appeal rights.

(2) Send FNS a copy of the notice of appeal and a copy of the letter to the State agency.

(f) Stay of collection. The filing of a timely notice of appeal shall automatically stay the action of FNS to collect the QC claim asserted against the State agency until a decision is reached on the acceptability of the appeal, and in the case of an acceptable appeal, until a final administrative determination has been issued. However, interest will accrue on the outstanding claim amount during the stay as provided in section 13(a)(1) of the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008, as amended (7 U.S.C. 2022(a)(1)).

(g) Content of appeal petition. The appeal petition shall include:

(1) A brief statement of the allegations of fact and provisions of law that constitute the basis for the appeal including a statement as to whether a factual basis for good cause relief exists, and

(2) The nature of the relief sought.

(h) FNS answer. Upon service of the State agency appeal petition, FNS shall file an answer, pursuant to §283.6, not later than 60 days after the State agency submits its appeal petition.

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§283.26   Request that appeals be handled under procedures in subpart B for appeals of QC claims of $50,000 or more.

(a) If, after the filing of its appeal petition, the State agency does not believe that the summary procedure provided in this subpart is adequate for handling the appeal and that an oral hearing is necessary, the State agency may file, no later than the date established for the conclusion of any discovery pursuant to §283.29, a motion that its appeal be handled under the procedures in subpart B of this part.

(b) The motion shall specify why the State agency believes that the summary procedure is inadequate and what harm will result if an oral hearing is not held.

(c) FNS will have 10 days from service of the State agency's motion that the appeal be handled under subpart B of this part to submit arguments either in support of or against the State agency's position.

(d) The ALJ will review the State agency's motion and the information submitted by FNS and decide which procedures shall be used in the appeal.

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§283.27   Procedures upon failure to file an answer.

The failure by FNS to file an answer shall constitute a waiver of the opportunity to file a cross motion for summary judgment pursuant to §283.30. Upon such failure to file, the State agency shall file a proposed decision, along with a motion for adoption thereof, both of which shall be served upon FNS by the State agency. Within 10 days after service of such motion and proposed decision, FNS may file with the Hearing Clerk objections thereto. If the ALJ finds that meritorious objections have been filed, the State agency's motion shall be denied with supporting reasons. If meritorious objections are not filed, the ALJ shall issue an initial decision without further procedures. Copies of the decision or denial of State agency's motion shall be served on each of the parties and shall be included as part of the official record. Where the decision as proposed by the State agency is adopted as the ALJ's initial decision, such decision of the ALJ shall become final and effective 30 days after service unless reconsideration or review by the Judicial Officer is sought as discussed in §§283.17(d) and 283.20.

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§283.28   Discovery.

Upon motion and as ordered by the ALJ, written interrogatories, written requests for admissions and written requests for the production of documents, may be served by any party to the appeal upon any other party and used in accordance with §283.12(b).

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§283.29   Scheduling conference.

(a) Time and place. The ALJ shall direct the parties or their counsel to attend a scheduling conference following the filing of a notice of appeal pursuant to §283.25. The scheduling conference shall be held at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC. Reasonable notice of the time and place of the scheduling conference shall be given. The ALJ may order each of the parties to furnish at the scheduling conference the following:

(1) An outline of the appeal or defense;

(2) The legal theories upon which the party will rely;

(3) Copies of or a list of documents that the party anticipates relying upon;

(b) Procedures. The ALJ shall not order any of the foregoing procedures that a party can show are inappropriate or unwarranted under the circumstances of the particular appeal.

(c) Scheduling conference. At the scheduling conference, the following matters shall be considered:

(1) The simplification of issues;

(2) The necessity of amendments to pleadings;

(3) Stipulations of facts and of the authenticity, accuracy, and admissibility of documents;

(4) Negotiation, compromise, or settlement of issues;

(5) The exchange of copies of proposed exhibits;

(6) The nature of and the date by which discovery, as provided in §283.28, must be completed;

(7) The identification of documents or matters of which official notice may be requested;

(8) A schedule to be followed by the parties for the filing of cross-motions for summary judgment and completion of other actions decided at the conference; and

(9) Such other matters as may expedite and aid in the disposition of the appeal.

(d) Reporting. A scheduling conference will not be stenographically reported unless so directed by the ALJ.

(e) Attendance at scheduling conference. In the event the ALJ concludes that personal attendance by the ALJ and the parties or counsel at a scheduling conference is unwarranted or impractical, but decides that a conference would expedite the appeal, the ALJ may conduct such conference by telephone.

(f) Order. Actions taken as a result of a conference shall be reduced to an appropriate written order, unless the ALJ concludes that a stenographic report shall suffice.

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§283.30   Cross motions for summary judgment.

Appeals filed pursuant to this subpart shall be determined upon cross motions for summary judgment unless the matter is heard under subpart B of this part in accordance with §283.26. Cross motions for summary judgment shall be filed by the parties along with the appeal petition and answer or in accordance with the schedule established by the ALJ pursuant to §283.29. Motions for summary judgment shall address the issues raised by the pleadings and may be supported by declarations. Motions and accompanying briefs in support of summary judgment shall not exceed 35 pages excluding exhibits unless otherwise authorized by the ALJ. Reply briefs may be filed by the parties in accordance with the schedule established by the ALJ. Reply briefs may not exceed 15 pages in length, excluding exhibits.

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§283.31   Review of the record.

(a) The ALJ shall review the cross motions for summary judgment, briefs, reply briefs and supporting materials submitted by both FNS and the State agency.

(b) If the ALJ decides that additional information or briefing is required from a party, a request for such information or briefing shall be submitted to such party with a copy to the other party. The request shall identify the additional information or specific issues to be addressed and shall specify the date(s) by which such information or briefing must be provided. Upon receipt of such additional information or briefing, the ALJ shall provide the other party an opportunity to submit responsive information or briefing.

(c) If the party to whom a request for additional information or briefing is made fails to submit the information or brief the issue(s) as requested, the ALJ may decide the appeal based on the existing record.

(d) If the ALJ decides that oral argument is necessary on legal issues, the ALJ shall set a time for the oral arguments as soon as feasible thereafter, with due regard for the public interest and the convenience and necessity of the State agency and FNS. The oral arguments shall be held at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC. Upon a showing of unusual or extraordinary circumstances, the ALJ may order that the argument be held at another location. The ALJ shall file a notice stating the time and place of the oral arguments. If any change in the time of the oral arguments is made, the ALJ shall file a notice of such change, which notice shall be served upon the parties, unless it is made during the course of the oral arguments and made a part of the transcript or actual notice given to the parties.

(e) Oral argument shall not be transcribed unless so ordered in advance by the ALJ for cause shown upon request of a party or upon the ALJ's own motion.

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§283.32   ALJ's initial decision.

(a) The ALJ shall decide the appeal not later than 60 days after receipt of rebuttal evidence submitted by the State agency pursuant to §283.8 or, if the State agency does not submit rebuttal evidence, not later than 90 days after the State agency submits the notice of appeal and evidence in support of the appeal. The ALJ may extend this deadline for cause shown.

(b) The ALJ shall prepare, upon the basis of the record, and shall file an initial decision which shall include a decision on a request for good cause relief, a copy of which shall be served upon each of the parties.

(c) Such initial decision shall constitute the final notice of determination for purposes of judicial review without further proceedings, unless there is a motion for reconsideration filed pursuant to §283.17(d) or review by the Judicial Officer is sought pursuant to §283.20.

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