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e-CFR data is current as of March 4, 2021

Title 7Subtitle BChapter IISubchapter CPart 283Subpart B → §283.15

Title 7: Agriculture
Subpart B—Appeals of QC Claims of $50,000 or More

§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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