7 CFR § 1.429 - Ex parte communications.
(a) At no stage of the proceeding between its institution and issuance of the final decision shall an employee of the Department who is or may reasonably be expected to be involved in the decisional process of the proceeding discuss ex parte the merits of the proceeding with any person having an interest in the proceeding, or with any representative of such person: Provided, That, procedural matters and status reports shall not be included within this limitation; and Provided further, That an employee of the Department who is or may be involved in the decisional process of the proceeding may discuss the merits of the proceeding if all parties of record have been given notice and an opportunity to participate. A memorandum of any such discussion shall be included in the record.
(c) If the Judge reviews an ex parte communication in violation of this section, the one who receives the communication shall place in the public record of the proceeding:
(1) All such written communication;
(2) Memoranda stating the substance of all such oral communications; and
(3) All written responses, and memoranda stating the substance of all oral responses thereto.
(d) Upon receipt of a communication knowingly 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 and the policy of the underlying statute, require the party to show cause why his claim or interest in the proceeding should not be dismissed, denied, disregarded, or otherwise adversely affected on account of such violation.
(e) 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.
(f) For purposes of this section 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 requests for status reports on any matter or the proceeding.