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Title 15

Displaying title 15, up to date as of 9/16/2021. Title 15 was last amended 9/15/2021.

Title 15

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Subpart C - Hearing and Appeal Procedures
§ 904.200 Scope and applicability.

(a) This subpart sets forth the procedures governing the conduct of hearings and the issuance of initial and final administrative decisions of NOAA involving alleged violations of the laws cited in § 904.1(c) and regulations implementing these laws, including civil penalty assessments and permit sanctions and denials. By separate regulation, these rules may be applied to other proceedings.

(b) The Judge is delegated authority to make the initial or final administrative decision of the Agency in proceedings subject to the provisions of this subpart, and to take actions to promote the efficient and fair conduct of hearings as set out in this subpart. The Judge has no authority to rule on constitutional issues or challenges to the validity of regulations promulgated by the Agency or statutes administered by NOAA.

(c) This subpart is not an independent basis for claiming the right to a hearing but, instead, prescribes procedures for the conduct of hearings, the right to which is provided by other authority.

§ 904.201 Hearing requests and case docketing.

(a) If the respondent wishes a hearing on a NOVA, NOPS or NIDP, the request must be dated and in writing, and must be served either in person or mailed to the Agency counsel specified in the notice. The respondent must either attach a copy of the NOVA, NOPS or NIDP or refer to the relevant NOAA case number. Agency counsel will promptly forward the request for hearing to the ALJ Docketing Center.

(b) If a written application is made to NOAA after the expiration of the time period established in this part for the required filing of hearing requests, Agency counsel will promptly forward the request for hearing along with a motion in opposition, documentation of service and any other relevant materials to the ALJ Docketing Center for a determination on whether such request shall be considered timely filed. Determinations by the ALJ regarding untimely hearing requests under this section shall be in writing.

(c) Upon its receipt for filing in the ALJ Docketing Center, each request for hearing will be promptly assigned a docket number and thereafter the proceeding will be referred to by such number. Written notice of the assignment of hearing to a Judge will promptly be given to the parties.

§ 904.202 Filing of documents.

(a) Pleadings, papers, and other documents in the proceeding must be filed in conformance with § 904.3 directly with the Judge, with copies served on the ALJ Docketing Center and all other parties.

(b) Unless otherwise ordered by the Judge, discovery requests and answers will be served on the opposing party and need not be filed with the Judge.

§ 904.203 [Reserved]
§ 904.204 Duties and powers of Judge.

The Judge has all powers and responsibilities necessary to preside over the parties and the hearing, to hold prehearing conferences, to conduct the hearing, and to render decisions in accordance with these regulations and 5 U.S.C. 554 through 557, including, but not limited to, the authority and duty to do the following:

(a) Rule on timeliness of hearing requests pursuant to § 904.201(b);

(b) Rule on a request to participate as a party in the hearing by allowing, denying, or limiting such participation (such ruling will consider views of the parties and be based on whether the requester could be directly and adversely affected by the determination and whether the requester can be expected to contribute materially to the disposition of the proceedings);

(c) Schedule the time, place, and manner of conducting the pre-hearing conference or hearing, continue the hearing from day to day, adjourn the hearing to a later date or a different place, and reopen the hearing at any time before issuance of the decision, all in the Judge's discretion, having due regard for the convenience and necessity of the parties and witnesses;

(d) Schedule and regulate the course of the hearing and the conduct of the participants and the media, including the power to rule on motions to close the hearing in the interests of justice; seal the record from public scrutiny to protect privileged information, trade secrets, and confidential commercial or financial information; and strike testimony of a witness who refuses to answer a question ruled to be proper;

(e) Administer oaths and affirmations to witnesses;

(f) Rule on contested discovery requests, establish discovery schedules, and, whenever the ends of justice would thereby be served, take or cause depositions or interrogatories to be taken and issue protective orders under § 904.251(h);

(g) Rule on motions, procedural requests, and similar matters;

(h) Receive, exclude, limit, and otherwise rule on offers of proof and evidence;

(i) Examine and cross-examine witnesses and introduce into the record on the Judge's own initiative documentary or other evidence;

(j) Rule on requests for appearance of witnesses or production of documents and take appropriate action upon failure of a party to effect the appearance or production of a witness or document ruled relevant and necessary to the proceeding; as authorized by law, issue subpoenas for the appearance of witnesses or production of documents;

(k) Require a party or witness at any time during the proceeding to state his or her position concerning any issue or his or her theory in support of such position;

(l) Take official notice of any matter not appearing in evidence that is among traditional matters of judicial notice; or of a non-privileged document required by law or regulation to be filed with or published by a duly constituted government body; or of any reasonably available public document; provided that the parties will be advised of the matter noticed and given reasonable opportunity to show the contrary;

(m) Assess a civil penalty or impose a permit sanction, condition, revocation, or denial of permit application, taking into account all of the factors required by applicable law;

(n) Prepare and submit a decision or other appropriate disposition document and certify the record;

(o) Award attorney fees and expenses as provided by applicable statute or regulation;

(p) Grant preliminary or interim relief; or

(q) Impose, upon the motion of any party, or sua sponte, appropriate sanctions.

(1) Sanctions may be imposed when any party, or any person representing a party, in an administrative proceeding under this part has failed to comply with this part, or any order issued under this part, and such failure to comply:

(i) Materially injures or prejudices another party by causing additional expenses; prejudicial delay; or other injury or prejudice;

(ii) Is a clear and unexcused violation of this part, or any order issued under this part; or

(iii) Unduly delays the administrative proceeding.

(2) Sanctions that may be imposed include, but are not limited to, one or more of the following:

(i) Issuing an order against the party;

(ii) Rejecting or striking any testimony or documentary evidence offered, or other papers filed, by the party;

(iii) Expelling the party from the administrative proceedings;

(iv) Precluding the party from contesting specific issues or findings;

(v) Precluding the party from making a late filing or conditioning a late filing on any terms that are just;

(vi) Assessing reasonable expenses, incurred by any other party as a result of the improper action or failure to act; and

(vii) Taking any other action, or imposing any restriction or sanction, authorized by applicable statute or regulation, deemed appropriate by the Judge.

(3) No sanction authorized by this section, other than refusal to accept late filings, shall be imposed without prior notice to all parties and an opportunity for any party against whom sanctions would be imposed to be heard. Such opportunity to be heard may be on such notice, and the response may be in such form as the Judge directs and may be limited to an opportunity for a party or a party's representative to respond orally immediately after the act or inaction is noted by the Judge.

(4) The imposition of sanctions is subject to interlocutory review pursuant to § 904.254 in the same manner as any other ruling.

(5) Nothing in this section shall be read as precluding the Judge from taking any other action, or imposing any restriction or sanction, authorized by applicable statute or regulation.

[71 FR 12448, Mar. 10, 2006, as amended at 75 FR 35632, June 23, 2010]

§ 904.205 Disqualification of Judge.

(a) The Judge may withdraw voluntarily from an administrative proceeding when the Judge deems himself/herself disqualified.

(b) A party may in good faith request the Judge to withdraw on the grounds of personal bias or other disqualification. The party seeking the disqualification must file with the Judge a timely affidavit or statement setting forth in detail the facts alleged to constitute the grounds for disqualification, and the Judge will rule on the matter. If the Judge rules against disqualification, the Judge will place all matters relating to such claims of disqualification in the record.

§ 904.206 Pleadings, motions, and service.

(a) The original of all pleadings and documents must be filed with the Judge and a copy served upon the ALJ Docketing Center and each party. All pleadings or documents when submitted for filing must show that service has been made upon all parties. Such service must be made in accordance with § 904.3(b).

(b) Pleadings and documents to be filed may be reproduced by printing or any other process, provided the copies are clear and legible; must be dated, the original signed in ink or as otherwise verified for electronic mail; and must show the docket description and title of the proceeding, and the title, if any, address, and telephone number of the signatory. If typewritten, the impression may be on only one side of the paper and must be double spaced, if possible, except that quotations may be single spaced and indented.

(c) Motions must normally be made in writing and must state clearly and concisely the purpose of and relief sought by the motion, the statutory or principal authority relied upon, and the facts claimed to constitute the grounds requiring the relief requested.

(d) Unless otherwise provided, the answer to any written motion, pleading, or petition must be served within 20 days after service of the motion. If a motion states that opposing counsel has no objection, it may be acted upon as soon as practicable, without awaiting the expiration of the 20 day period. Answers must be in writing, unless made in response to an oral motion made at a hearing; must fully and completely advise the parties and the Judge concerning the nature of the opposition; must admit or deny specifically and in detail each material allegation of the pleading answered; and must state clearly and concisely the facts and matters of law relied upon. Any new matter raised in an answer will be deemed controverted.

(e) A response to an answer will be called a reply. A short reply restricted to new matters raised in the answer may be served within 15 days after service of an answer. The Judge has discretion to dispense with the reply. No further responses are permitted.

§ 904.207 Amendment of pleading or record.

(a) A party may amend its pleading as a matter of course at least 20 days prior to a hearing. Within 20 days prior to a hearing a party may amend its pleading only by leave of the Judge or by written consent of the adverse party; leave shall be freely given when justice so requires. A party shall plead in response to an amended pleading within the time remaining for response to the original pleading or within 10 days after service of the amended pleading, whichever period is longer, unless the Judge otherwise orders.

(b) The Judge, upon his or her own initiative or upon application by a party, may order a party to make a more definite statement of any pleading.

(c) Harmless errors in pleadings or elsewhere in the record may be corrected (by deletion or substitution of words or figures), and broad discretion will be exercised by the Judge in permitting such corrections.

§ 904.208 Extensions of time.

If appropriate and justified, the Judge may grant any request for an extension of time. Requests for extensions of time must, except in extraordinary circumstances, be made in writing.

§ 904.209 Expedited administrative proceedings.

In the interests of justice and administrative efficiency, the Judge, on his or her own initiative or upon the application of any party, may expedite the administrative proceeding. A motion by a party to expedite the administrative proceeding may, at the discretion of the Judge, be made orally or in writing with concurrent actual notice to all parties. Upon granting a motion to expedite the scheduling of an administrative proceeding, the Judge may expedite pleading schedules, prehearing conferences and the hearing, as appropriate. If a motion for an expedited administrative proceeding is granted, a hearing on the merits may not be scheduled with less than 5 business days notice, unless all parties consent to an earlier hearing.

§ 904.210 Summary decision.

The Judge may render a summary decision disposing of all or part of the administrative proceeding if:

(a) Jointly requested by every party to the administrative proceeding; and

(b) There is no genuine issue as to any material fact and a party is entitled to summary decision as a matter of law.

§ 904.211 Failure to appear.

(a) If, after proper service of notice, any party appears at the hearing and an opposing party fails to appear, the Judge is authorized to:

(1) Dismiss the case with prejudice, where the Agency is a non-appearing party; or

(2) Where the respondents have failed to appear, find the facts as alleged in the NOVA, NOPS and/or NIDP and enter a default judgment against the respondents.

(b) Following an order of default judgment, a non-appearing party may file a petition for reconsideration, in accordance with § 904.272. Only petitions citing reasons for non-appearance, as opposed to arguing the merits of the case, will be considered.

(c) The Judge will place in the record all the facts concerning the issuance and service of the notice of time and place of hearing.

(d) The Judge may deem a failure of a party to appear after proper notice a waiver of any right to a hearing and consent to the making of a decision on the record.

(e) 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 Judge's decision.

§ 904.212 Failure to prosecute or defend.

(a) Whenever the record discloses the failure of any party to file documents, respond to orders or notices from the Judge, or otherwise indicates an intention on the part of any party not to participate further in the administrative proceeding, the Judge may issue:

(1) An order requiring any party to show why the matter that is the subject of the failure to respond should not be disposed of adversely to that party's interest;

(2) An order requiring any party to certify intent to appear at any scheduled hearing; or

(3) Any order, except dismissal, as is necessary for the just and expeditious resolution of the case.

(b) [Reserved]

§ 904.213 Settlements.

If settlement is reached before the Judge has certified the record, the Judge shall remove the case from the docket upon notification by the Agency.

§ 904.214 Stipulations.

The parties may, by stipulation, agree upon any matters involved in the administrative proceeding and include such stipulations in the record with the consent of the Judge. Written stipulations must be signed and served upon all parties.

§ 904.215 Consolidation.

The Chief Administrative Law Judge may order that two or more administrative proceedings that involve substantially the same parties or the same issues be consolidated and/or heard together, either upon request of a party or sua sponte.

§ 904.216 Prehearing conferences.

(a) Prior to any hearing or at any other time deemed appropriate, the Judge may, upon his or her own initiative, or upon the application of any party, direct the parties to appear for a conference or arrange a telephone conference. The Judge shall provide at least 24 hours notice of the conference to the parties, and shall record such conference by audio recording or court reporter, to consider:

(1) Simplification or clarification of the issues or settlement of the case by consent;

(2) The possibility of obtaining stipulations, admissions, agreements, and rulings on admissibility of documents, understandings on matters already of record, or similar agreements that will avoid unnecessary proof;

(3) Agreements and rulings to facilitate the discovery process;

(4) Limitation of the number of expert witnesses or other avoidance of cumulative evidence;

(5) The procedure, course, and conduct of the administrative proceeding;

(6) The distribution to the parties and the Judge prior to the hearing of written testimony and exhibits in order to expedite the hearing; or

(7) Such other matters as may aid in the disposition of the administrative proceeding, including the status of settlement discussions.

(b) The Judge in his or her discretion may issue an order showing the matters disposed of in such conference, and shall provide a transcript of the conference upon the request of a party.

§ 904.240 Discovery generally.

(a) Preliminary position on issues and procedures (PPIP). Prior to hearing the Judge will ordinarily require the parties to submit a written PPIP. Except for information regarding a respondent's ability to pay an assessed civil penalty, this PPIP will normally obviate the need for further discovery.

(1) The PPIP shall include the following information: A factual summary of the case; a summary of all factual and legal issues in dispute; a list of all defenses that will be asserted, together with a summary of all factual and legal bases supporting each defense; a list of all potential witnesses, together with a summary of their anticipated testimony; and a list of all potential exhibits.

(2) The PPIP shall be signed by the party and by an attorney, if one is retained. The PPIP shall be served upon all parties, along with a copy of each potential exhibit listed in the PPIP.

(3) A party has the affirmative obligation to supplement the PPIP as available information or documentation relevant to the stated charges or defenses becomes known to the party.

(b) Additional discovery. Upon written motion by a party, the Judge may allow additional discovery only upon a showing of relevance, need, and reasonable scope of the evidence sought, by one or more of the following methods: Deposition upon oral examination or written questions, written interrogatories, production of documents or things for inspection and other purposes, and requests for admission. With respect to information regarding a respondent's ability to pay an assessed civil penalty, the Agency may serve any discovery request (i.e., deposition, interrogatories, admissions, production of documents) directly upon the respondent without first seeking an order from the Judge.

(c) Time limits. Motions for depositions, interrogatories, admissions, or production of documents or things may not be filed within 20 days of the hearing except on order of the Judge for good cause shown. Oppositions to a discovery motion must be filed within 10 days of service unless otherwise provided in these rules or by the Judge.

(d) Oppositions. Oppositions to any discovery motion or portion thereof must state with particularity the grounds relied upon. Failure to object in a timely fashion constitutes waiver of the objection.

(e) Scope of discovery. The Judge may limit the scope, subject matter, method, time, or place of discovery. Unless otherwise limited by order of the Judge, the scope of discovery is as follows:

(1) In general. As allowed under paragraph (b) of this section, parties may obtain discovery of any matter, not privileged, that is relevant to the allegations of the charging document, to the proposed relief, or to the defenses of any respondent, or that appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.

(2) Hearing preparation: Materials. A party may not obtain discovery of materials prepared in anticipation of litigation except upon a showing that the party seeking discovery has a substantial need for the materials in preparation of his or her case and is unable without undue hardship to obtain the substantial equivalent of the materials by other means. Mental impressions, conclusions, opinions, or legal theories of an attorney or other representative of a party are not discoverable under this section.

(3) Hearing preparation: Experts. A party may discover the substance of the facts and opinions to which an expert witness is expected to testify and a summary of the grounds for each opinion. A party may also discover facts known or opinions held by an expert consulted by another party in anticipation of litigation but not expected to be called as a witness upon a showing of exceptional circumstances making it impracticable for the party seeking discovery to obtain such facts or opinions by other means.

(f) Failure to comply. If a party fails to comply with any provision of this section, including any PPIP, subpoena or order concerning discovery, the Judge may, in the interest of justice:

(1) Infer that the admission, testimony, documents, or other evidence would have been adverse to the party;

(2) Rule that the matter or matters covered by the order or subpoena are established adversely to the party;

(3) Rule that the party may not introduce into evidence or otherwise rely upon, in support of any claim or defense, testimony by such party, officer, or agent, or the documents or other evidence;

(4) Rule that the party may not be heard to object to introduction and use of secondary evidence to show what the withheld admission, testimony, documents, or other evidence would have shown; or

(5) Strike part or all of a pleading (except a request for hearing), a motion or other submission by the party, concerning the matter or matters covered by the order or subpoena.

§ 904.241 Depositions.

(a) Notice. If a motion for deposition is granted, and unless otherwise ordered by the Judge, the party taking the deposition of any person must serve on that person and on any other party written notice at least 15 days before the deposition would be taken (or 25 days if the deposition is to be taken outside the United States). The notice must state the name and address of each person to be examined, the time and place where the examination would be held, the name and mailing address of the person before whom the deposition would be taken, and the subject matter about which each person would be examined.

(b) Taking the deposition. Depositions may be taken before any officer authorized to administer oaths by the law of the United States or of the place where the examination is to be held, or before a person appointed by the Judge. Each deponent will be sworn, and any party has the right to cross-examine. Objections are not waived by failure to make them during the deposition unless the ground of the objection is one that might have been removed if presented at that time. The deposition will be recorded, transcribed, signed by the deponent, unless waived, and certified by the officer before whom the deposition was taken. All transcription costs associated with the testimony of a deponent will be borne by the party seeking the deposition. Each party will bear its own expense for any copies of the transcript. See also § 904.252(a).

(c) Alternative deposition methods. By order of the Judge, the parties may use other methods of deposing parties or witnesses, such as telephonic depositions or depositions upon written questions. Objections to the form of written questions are waived unless made within 5 days of service of the questions.

(d) Use of depositions at hearing.

(1) At hearing, part or all of any deposition, so far as admissible under the rules of evidence applied as though the witness were then testifying, may be used against any party who was present or represented at the taking of the deposition or had reasonable notice.

(2) The deposition of a witness may be used by any party for any purpose if the Judge finds:

(i) That the witness is unable to attend due to death, age, health, imprisonment, disappearance or distance from the hearing site; or

(ii) That exceptional circumstances make it desirable, in the interest of justice, to allow the deposition to be used.

(3) If only part of a deposition is offered in evidence by a party, any party may introduce any other part.

§ 904.242 Interrogatories.

(a) Use at hearing. If ordered by the Judge, any party may serve upon any other party written interrogatories. Answers may be used at hearing in the same manner as depositions under § 904.241(d).

(b) Answers and objections. Answers and objections must be made in writing under oath, and reasons for the objections must be stated. Answers must be signed by the person making them and objections must be signed by the party or attorney making them. Unless otherwise ordered, answers and objections must be served on all parties within 20 days after service of the interrogatories.

(c) Option to produce records. Where the answer to an interrogatory may be ascertained from the records of the party upon whom the interrogatory is served, it is sufficient to specify such records and afford the party serving the interrogatories an opportunity to examine them.

§ 904.243 Admissions.

(a) Request. If ordered by the Judge, any party may serve on any other party a written request for admission of the truth of any relevant matter of fact set forth in the request, including the genuineness of any relevant document described in the request. Copies of documents must be served with the request. Each matter of which an admission is requested must be separately stated.

(b) Response. Each matter is admitted unless a written answer or objection is served within 20 days of service of the request, or within such other time as the Judge may allow. The answering party must specifically admit or deny each matter, or state the reasons why he or she cannot truthfully admit or deny it.

(c) Effect of admission. Any matter admitted is conclusively established unless the Judge on motion permits withdrawal or amendment of it for good cause shown.

§ 904.244 Production of documents and inspection.

(a) Scope. If ordered by the Judge, any party may serve on any other party a request to produce a copy of any document or specifically designated category of documents, or to inspect, copy, photograph, or test any such document or tangible thing in the possession, custody, or control of the party upon whom the request is served.

(b) Procedure. The request must set forth:

(1) The items to be produced or inspected by item or by category, described with reasonable particularity, and

(2) A reasonable time, place, and manner for inspection. The party upon whom the request is served must serve within 20 days a response or objections, which must address each item or category and include copies of the requested documents.

§ 904.245 Subpoenas.

(a) In general. Subpoenas for the attendance and testimony of witnesses and the production of documentary evidence for the purpose of discovery or hearing may be issued as authorized by the statute under which the proceeding is conducted.

(b) Timing. Applications for subpoenas must be submitted at least 15 days before the scheduled hearing or deposition.

(c) Motions to quash. Any person to whom a subpoena is directed or any party may move to quash or limit the subpoena within 10 days of its service or on or before the time specified for compliance, whichever is shorter. The Judge may quash or modify the subpoena.

(d) Enforcement. In case of disobedience to a subpoena, the requesting party may request the U.S. Department of Justice to invoke the aid of any court of the United States in requiring the attendance and testimony of witnesses and the production of documentary evidence.

§ 904.250 Notice of time and place of hearing.

(a) The Judge shall be responsible for scheduling the hearing. With due regard for the convenience of the parties, their representatives, or witnesses, the Judge shall fix the time, place and date for the hearing and shall notify all parties of the same. The Judge will promptly serve on the parties notice of the time and place of hearing. The hearing will not be held less than 20 days after service of the notice of hearing unless the hearing is expedited as provided under paragraph (c) of this section.

(b) A request for a change in the time, place, or date of the hearing may be granted by the Judge.

(c) Upon the consent of each party to the administrative proceeding, the Judge may order that one or more issues be heard on submissions or affidavits if it appears that such issues may be resolved by means of written materials and that efficient disposition of those issues can be made without an in-person hearing.

(d) At any time after commencement of an administrative proceeding, any party may move to expedite the scheduling of the administrative proceeding as provided in § 904.209.

§ 904.251 Evidence.

(a) In general.

(1) At the hearing, every party has the right to present oral or documentary evidence in support of its case or defense, to submit rebuttal evidence, and to conduct such cross-examination as may be required for a full and true disclosure of the facts. This paragraph may not be interpreted to diminish the powers and duties of the Judge under § 904.204.

(2) All evidence that is relevant, material, reliable, and probative, and not unduly repetitious or cumulative, is admissible at the hearing. Formal rules of evidence do not necessarily apply to the administrative proceedings, and hearsay evidence is not inadmissible as such.

(3) In any case involving a charged violation of law in which the respondent has admitted an allegation, evidence may be taken to establish matters of aggravation or mitigation.

(b) Objections and offers of proof.

(1) A party shall state the grounds for objection to the admission or exclusion of evidence. Rulings on all objections shall appear in the record. Only objections made before the Judge may be raised on appeal.

(2) Whenever evidence is excluded from the record, the party offering such evidence may make an offer of proof, which shall be included in the record.

(c) Testimony.

(1) Testimony may be received into evidence by the following means:

(i) Oral presentation; and

(ii) Subject to the discretion of the Judge, written affidavit, telephone, video or other electronic media.

(2) Regardless of form, all testimony shall be under oath or affirmation requiring the witness to declare that the witness will testify truthfully, and subject to cross examination.

(d) Exhibits and documents.

(1) All exhibits shall be numbered and marked with a designation identifying the sponsor. To prove the content of an exhibit, the original writing, recording or photograph is required except that a duplicate or copy is admissible to the same extent as an original unless a genuine question is raised as to the authenticity of the original or, given the circumstances, it would be unfair to admit the duplicate in lieu of the original. The original is not required, and other evidence of the contents of a writing, recording, or photograph is admissible if the original is lost or destroyed, not obtainable, in the possession of the opponent, or not closely related to a controlling issue. Each exhibit offered in evidence or marked for identification shall be filed and retained in the record of decision, unless the Judge permits the substitution of copies for the original document.

(2) In addition to the requirements set forth in § 904.240(a)(2), parties shall exchange all remaining exhibits that will be offered at hearing prior to the beginning of the hearing, except for good cause or as otherwise directed by the Judge. Exhibits that are not exchanged as required may be denied admission into evidence. This requirement does not apply to demonstrative evidence.

(e) Physical evidence.

(1) Photographs or videos or other electronic media may be substituted for physical evidence at the discretion of the Judge.

(2) Except upon the Judge's order, or upon request by a party, physical evidence will be retained after the hearing by the Agency.

(f) Stipulations. The parties may, by written stipulation at any stage of the administrative proceeding or orally at the hearing, agree upon any matters. Stipulations may be received in evidence before or during the hearing and, when received in evidence, shall be binding on the parties to the stipulation.

(g) Official notice. The Judge may take official notice of such matters as might be judicially noticed by the courts or of other facts within the specialized knowledge of the agency as an expert body. Where a decision or part thereof rests on official notice of a material fact not appearing in the evidence in the record, the fact of official notice shall be so stated in the decision, and any party, upon timely request, shall be afforded an opportunity to show the contrary.

(h) Confidential and sensitive information.

(1) The Judge may limit introduction of evidence or issue protective orders that are required to prevent undue disclosure of classified, confidential, or sensitive matters, which include, but are not limited to, matters of a national security, business, personal, or proprietary nature. Where the Judge determines that information in documents containing classified, confidential, or sensitive matters should be made available to another party, the Judge may direct the offering party to prepare an unclassified or non-sensitive summary or extract of the original. The summary or extract may be admitted as evidence in the record.

(2) If the Judge determines that the procedure described in paragraph (h)(1) of this section is inadequate and that classified or otherwise sensitive matters must form part of the record in order to avoid prejudice to a party, the Judge may advise the parties and provide opportunity for arrangements to permit a party or representative to have access to such matters.

(i) Foreign law.

(1) A party who intends to raise an issue concerning the law of a foreign country must give reasonable notice. The Judge, in determining foreign law, may consider any relevant material or source, whether or not submitted by a party.

(2) Exhibits in a foreign language must be translated into English before such exhibits are offered into evidence. Copies of both the untranslated and translated versions of the proposed exhibits, along with the name and qualifications of the translator, must be served on the opposing party at least 10 days prior to the hearing unless the parties otherwise agree.

§ 904.252 Witnesses.

(a) Fees. Witnesses, other than employees of a Federal agency, summoned in an administrative proceeding, including discovery, shall receive the same fees and mileage as witnesses in the courts of the United States.

(b) Witness counsel. Any witness not a party may have personal counsel to advise him or her as to his or her rights, but such counsel may not otherwise participate in the hearing.

(c) Witness exclusion. Witnesses who are not parties may be excluded from the hearing room prior to the taking of their testimony. An authorized officer is considered a party for the purposes of this subsection.

(d) Oath or affirmation. Witnesses shall testify under oath or affirmation requiring the witness to declare that the witness will testify truthfully.

(e) Failure or refusal to testify. If a witness fails or refuses to testify, the failure or refusal to answer any question found by the Judge to be proper may be grounds for striking all or part of the testimony given by the witness, or any other action deemed appropriate by the Judge.

(f) Testimony in a foreign language. If a witness is expected to testify in a language other than the English language, the party sponsoring the witness must provide for the services of an interpreter and advise opposing counsel 10 days prior to the hearing concerning the extent to which interpreters are to be used. When available, the interpreter should be court certified under 28 U.S.C. 1827.

§ 904.253 Closing of record.

At the conclusion of the hearing, the evidentiary record shall be closed unless the Judge directs otherwise. Once the record is closed, no additional evidence shall be accepted except upon a showing that the evidence is material and that there was good cause for failure to produce it in a timely fashion. The Judge shall reflect in the record, however, any approved correction to the transcript.

§ 904.254 Interlocutory review.

(a) Application for interlocutory review shall be made to the Judge. The application shall not be certified to the Administrator except when the Judge determines that:

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

(2) An immediate ruling will materially advance the completion of the proceeding; or

(3) The denial of an immediate ruling will cause irreparable harm to a party or the public.

(b) Any application for interlocutory review shall:

(1) Be filed with the Judge within 30 days after the Judge's ruling;

(2) Designate the ruling or part thereof from which appeal is being taken;

(3) Set forth the ground on which the appeal lies; and

(4) Present the points of fact and law relied upon in support of the position taken.

(c) Any party that opposes the application may file a response within 20 days after service of the application.

(d) The certification to the Administrator by the Judge shall stay proceedings before the Judge until the matter under interlocutory review is decided.

§ 904.255 Ex parte communications.

(a) Except to the extent required for disposition of ex parte matters as authorized by law, the Judge may not consult a person or party on any matter relevant to the merits of the administrative proceeding, unless there has been notice and opportunity for all parties to participate.

(b) Except to the extent required for the disposition of ex parte matters as authorized by law:

(1) No interested person outside the Agency shall make or knowingly cause to be made to the Judge, the Administrator, or any Agency employee who is or may reasonably be expected to be involved in the decisional process of the administrative proceeding an ex parte communication relevant to the merits of the adjudication; and

(2) Neither the Administrator, the Judge, nor any Agency employee who is or may reasonably be expected to be involved in the decisional process of the administrative proceeding, shall make or knowingly cause to be made to any interested person outside the agency an ex parte communication relevant to the merits of the administrative proceeding.

(c) The Administrator, the Judge, or any Agency employee who is or may reasonably be expected to be involved in the decisional process who receives, makes, or knowingly causes to be made a communication prohibited by this rule shall place in the record of decision:

(1) All such written communications;

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

(3) All written responses, and memoranda stating the substance of all oral responses, to the materials described in paragraphs (c)(1) and (c)(2) of this section.


(1) Paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of this section do not apply to communications concerning national defense or foreign policy matters. Such ex parte communications to or from an Agency employee on national defense or foreign policy matters, or from employees of the U.S. Government involving intergovernmental negotiations, are allowed if the communicator's position with respect to those matters cannot otherwise be fairly presented for reasons of foreign policy or national defense.

(2) Ex parte communications subject to this paragraph will be made a part of the record to the extent that they do not include information classified under an Executive order. Classified information will be included in a classified portion of the record that will be available for review only in accordance with applicable law.

(e) Upon receipt of a communication made, or knowingly caused to be made, by a party in violation of this section the Judge may, to the extent consistent with the interests of justice, national security, the policy of underlying statutes, require the party to show cause why its claim or interest in the adjudication should not be dismissed, denied, disregarded, or otherwise adversely affected by reason of such violation.

(f) The prohibitions of this rule shall apply beginning after issuance of a NOVA, NOPS, NIDP or any other notice and until a final administrative decision is rendered, but in no event shall they begin to apply later than the time at which an administrative proceeding is noticed for hearing unless the person responsible for the communication has knowledge that it will be noticed, in which case the prohibitions shall apply beginning at the time of her/his acquisition of such knowledge.

§ 904.260 Recordation of hearing.

(a) All hearings shall be recorded.

(b) The official transcript of testimony taken, together with any exhibits, briefs, or memoranda of law filed therewith, will be filed with the ALJ Docketing Center. Transcripts of testimony will be available in any hearing and will be supplied to the parties at the cost of the Agency.

(c) The Judge may determine whether “ordinary copy”, “daily copy”, or other copy (as those terms are defined by contract) will be necessary and required for the proper conduct of the administrative proceeding.

§ 904.261 Post-hearing briefs.

(a) The parties may file post-hearing briefs that include proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law within 30 days from service of the hearing transcript. Reply briefs may be submitted within 15 days after service of the proposed findings and conclusions to which they respond.

(b) The Judge, in his or her discretion, may establish a different date for filing either initial briefs or reply briefs with the court.

(c) In cases involving few parties, limited issues, and short hearings, the Judge may require or a party may request that any proposed findings and conclusions and reasons in support be presented orally at the close of a hearing. In granting such cases, the Judge will advise the parties in advance of hearing.

§ 904.270 Record of decision.

(a) The exclusive record of decision consists of the official transcript of testimony and administrative proceedings; exhibits admitted into evidence; briefs, pleadings, and other documents filed in the administrative proceeding; and descriptions or copies of matters, facts, or documents officially noticed in the administrative proceeding. Any other exhibits and records of any ex parte communications will accompany the record of decision.

(b) The Judge will arrange for appropriate storage of the records of any administrative proceeding, which place of storage need not necessarily be located physically within the ALJ Docketing Center.

§ 904.271 Initial decision.

(a) After expiration of the period provided in § 904.261 for the filing of reply briefs (unless the parties have waived briefs or presented proposed findings orally at the hearing), the Judge will render a written decision upon the record in the case, setting forth:

(1) Findings and conclusions, and the reasons or bases therefor, on all material issues of fact, law, or discretion presented on the record;

(2) An order as to the final disposition of the case, including any appropriate ruling, order, sanction, relief, or denial thereof;

(3) The date upon which the decision will become effective; and

(4) A statement of further right to appeal.

(b) If the parties have presented oral proposed findings at the hearing or have waived presentation of proposed findings, the Judge may at the termination of the hearing announce the decision, subject to later issuance of a written decision under paragraph (a) of this section. In such cases, the Judge may direct the prevailing party to prepare proposed findings, conclusions, and an order.

(c) The Judge will serve the written decision on each of the parties, the Assistant General Counsel for Enforcement and Litigation, and the Administrator by certified mail (return receipt requested), facsimile, electronic transmission or third party commercial carrier to an addressee's last known address or by personal delivery and upon request will promptly certify to the Administrator the record, including the original copy of the decision, as complete and accurate.

(d) An initial decision becomes effective as the final administrative decision of NOAA 60 days after service, unless:

(1) Otherwise provided by statute or regulations;

(2) The Judge grants a petition for reconsideration under § 904.272; or

(3) A petition for discretionary review is filed or the Administrator issues an order to review upon his/her own initiative under § 904.273.

§ 904.272 Petition for reconsideration.

Unless an order or initial decision of the Judge specifically provides otherwise, any party may file a petition for reconsideration of an order or initial decision issued by the Judge. Such petitions must state the matter claimed to have been erroneously decided, and the alleged errors and relief sought must be specified with particularity. Petitions must be filed within 20 days after the service of such order or initial decision. The filing of a petition for reconsideration shall operate as a stay of an order or initial decision or its effectiveness date unless specifically so ordered by the Judge. Within 15 days after the petition is filed, any party to the administrative proceeding may file an answer in support or in opposition.

§ 904.273 Administrative review of decision.

(a) Subject to the requirements of this section, any party who wishes to seek review of an initial decision of a Judge must petition for review of the initial decision within 30 days after the date the decision is served. The petition must be served on the Administrator by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested at the following address: Administrator, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Commerce, Room 5128, 14th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20230. Copies of the petition for review, and all other documents and materials required in paragraph (d) of this section, must be served on all parties and the Assistant General Counsel for Enforcement and Litigation at the following address: Assistant General Counsel for Enforcement and Litigation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 8484 Georgia Avenue, Suite 400, Silver Spring, MD 20910.

(b) The Administrator may elect to issue an order to review the initial decision without petition and may affirm, reverse, modify or remand the Judge's initial decision. Any such order must be issued within 60 days after the date the initial decision is served.

(c) Review by the Administrator of an initial decision is discretionary and is not a matter of right. If a party files a timely petition for discretionary review, or review is timely undertaken on the Administrator's own initiative, the effectiveness of the initial decision is stayed until further order of the Administrator or until the initial decision becomes final pursuant to paragraph (h) of this section.

(d) A petition for review must comply with the following requirements regarding format and content:

(1) The petition must include a concise statement of the case, which must contain a statement of facts relevant to the issues submitted for review, and a summary of the argument, which must contain a succinct, clear and accurate statement of the arguments made in the body of the petition;

(2) The petition must set forth, in detail, specific objections to the initial decision, the bases for review, and the relief requested;

(3) Each issue raised in the petition must be separately numbered, concisely stated, and supported by detailed citations to specific pages in the record, and to statutes, regulations, and principal authorities. Petitions may not refer to or incorporate by reference entire documents or transcripts;

(4) A copy of the Judge's initial decision must be attached to the petition;

(5) Copies of all cited portions of the record must be attached to the petition;

(6) A petition, exclusive of attachments and authorities, must not exceed 20 pages in length and must be in the form articulated in section 904.206(b); and

(7) Issues of fact or law not argued before the Judge may not be raised in the petition unless such issues were raised for the first time in the Judge's initial decision, or could not reasonably have been foreseen and raised by the parties during the hearing. The Administrator will not consider new or additional evidence that is not a part of the record before the Judge.

(e) The Administrator may deny a petition for review that is untimely or fails to comply with the format and content requirements in paragraph (d) of this section without further review.

(f) No oral argument on petitions for discretionary review will be allowed.

(g) Within 30 days after service of a petition for discretionary review, any party may file and serve an answer in support or in opposition. An answer must comport with the format and content requirements in paragraphs (d)(5) through (d)(7) of this section and set forth detailed responses to the specific objections, bases for review and relief requested in the petition. No further replies are allowed, unless requested by the Administrator.

(h) If the Administrator has taken no action in response to the petition within 120 days after the petition is served, said petition shall be deemed denied and the Judge's initial decision shall become the final agency decision with an effective date 150 days after the petition is served.

(i) If the Administrator issues an order denying discretionary review, the order will be served on all parties personally or by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested, and will specify the date upon which the Judge's decision will become effective as the final agency decision. The Administrator need not give reasons for denying review.

(j) If the Administrator grants discretionary review or elects to review the initial decision without petition, the Administrator will issue an order to that effect. Such order may identify issues to be briefed and a briefing schedule. Such issues may include one or more of the issues raised in the petition for review and any other matters the Administrator wishes to review. Only those issues identified in the order may be argued in any briefs permitted under the order. The Administrator may choose to not order any additional briefing, and may instead make a final determination based on any petitions for review, any responses and the existing record.

(k) If the Administrator grants or elects to take discretionary review, and after expiration of the period for filing any additional briefs under paragraph (j) of this section, the Administrator will render a written decision on the issues under review. The Administrator will transmit the decision to each of the parties by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested. The Administrator's decision becomes the final administrative decision on the date it is served, unless otherwise provided in the decision, and is a final agency action for purposes of judicial review; except that an Administrator's decision to remand the initial decision to the Judge is not final agency action.

(l) An initial decision shall not be subject to judicial review unless:

(1) The party seeking judicial review has exhausted its opportunity for administrative review by filing a petition for review with the Administrator in compliance with this section, and

(2) The Administrator has issued a final ruling on the petition that constitutes final agency action under paragraph (k) of this section or the Judge's initial decision has become the final agency decision under paragraph (h) of this section.

(m) For purposes of any subsequent judicial review of the agency decision, any issues that are not identified in any petition for review, in any answer in support or opposition, by the Administrator, or in any modifications to the initial decision are waived.

(n) If an action is filed for judicial review of a final agency decision, and the decision is vacated or remanded by a court, the Administrator shall issue an order addressing further administrative proceedings in the matter. Such order may include a remand to the Chief Administrative Law Judge for further proceedings consistent with the judicial decision, or further briefing before the Administrator on any issues the Administrator deems appropriate.