7 CFR § 1.173 - Judges.
(a) Assignment. No Judge shall be assigned to serve in any proceeding who (1) has any pecuniary interest in any matter or business involved in the proceeding, (2) is related within the third degree by blood or marriage to any party to the proceeding, or (3) has participated in the investigation preceding the institution of the proceeding or in determination that it should be instituted or in the preparation of the moving paper or in the development of the evidence to be introduced therein.
(b) Disqualification of Judge.
(1) Any party to the proceeding may, by motion made to the Judge, request that the Judge disqualify himself or herself and withdraw from the proceeding. Such motion shall set forth with particularity the alleged disqualification. The Judge may then either rule upon or certify the motion to the Judicial Officer, but not both.
(c) Conduct. At no stage of the proceeding between its institution and the issuance of the final decision shall the Judicial Officer or the Judge discuss ex parte the merits of the proceeding with any person who is connected with the proceeding as an advocate or in an investigative capacity, or with any representative of such person: Provided, That procedural matters shall not be included within the limitation: and Provided further, That the Judicial Officer of Judge may discuss the merits of the case with such a person if all parties to the proceeding, or their representatives, have been given an opportunity to be present. Any memorandum or other communication addressed to the Judicial Officer or a Judge, during the pendency of the proceeding, and relating to the merits thereof, by or on behalf of any party or any interested person, shall be filed with the Hearing Clerk. A copy thereof shall be served upon the parties to the proceeding, and, in the discretion of the Judge or the Judicial Officer, opportunity may be given to file a reply thereto within a specified period.
(1) Rule upon motions and requests;
(3) Administer oaths and affirmations;
(4) Examine witnesses and receive relevant evidence;
(5) Admit or exclude evidence;
(6) Hear oral argument on facts or law;
(7) Require each party to provide all other parties and the Judge with a copy of any exhibit that the party intends to introduce into evidence prior to any hearing to be conducted by telephone or audio-visual telecommunication;
(8) Require that any hearing to be conducted by telephone or audio-visual telecommunication be conducted at locations at which the parties and the Judge are able to transmit and receive documents during the hearing;
(9) Do all acts and take all measures necessary for the orderly presentation of evidence, maintenance of order, and the efficient conduct of the proceeding.
(e) Who may act in the absence of the Judge. In case of the absence of the Judge or upon the Judge's inability to act, the powers and duties to be performed by the Judge under these Rules of Practice in connection with a proceeding assigned to the Judge may, without abatement of the proceeding, be assigned to any other Judge.