7 CFR § 11.8 - Division hearings.

§ 11.8 Division hearings.

(a) General rules.

(1) The Director, the Hearing Officer, and the appellant shall have access to the agency record of any adverse decision appealed to the Division for a hearing. Upon request by the appellant, the agency shall provide the appellant a copy of the agency record.

(2) The Director and Hearing Officer shall have the authority to administer oaths and affirmations, and to require, by subpoena, the attendance of witnesses and the production of evidence. A Hearing Officer shall obtain the concurrence of the Director prior to issuing a subpoena.

(i) A subpoena requiring the production of evidence may be requested and issued at any time while the case is pending before the Division.

(ii) An appellant or an agency, acting through any appropriate official, may request the issuance of a subpoena requiring the attendance of a witness by submitting such a request in writing at least 14 days before the scheduled date of a hearing. The Director or Hearing Officer shall issue a subpoena at least 7 days prior to the scheduled date of a hearing.

(iii) A subpoena shall be issued only if the Director or a Hearing Officer determined that:

(A) For a subpoena of documents, the appellant or the agency has established that production of documentary evidence is necessary and is reasonably calculated to lead to information which would affect the final determination or is necessary to fully present the case before the Division; or

(B) For a subpoena of a witness, the appellant or the agency has established that either a representative of the Department or a private individual possesses information that is pertinent and necessary for disclosure of all relevant facts which could impact the final determination, that the information cannot be obtained except through testimony of the person, and that the testimony cannot be obtained absent issuance of a subpoena.

(iv) The party requesting issuance of a subpoena shall arrange for service. Service of a subpoena upon a person named therein may be made by registered or certified mail, or in person. Personal service shall be made by personal delivery of a copy of the subpoena to the person named therein by any person who is not a party and who is not less than 18 years of age. Proof of service shall be made by filing with the Hearing Officer or Director who issued the subpoena a statement of the date and manner of service and of the names of the persons served, certified by the person who made the service in person or by return receipts for certified or registered mail.

(v) A party who requests that a subpoena be issued shall be responsible for the payment of any reasonable travel and subsistence costs incurred by the witness in connection with his or her appearance and any fees of a person who serves the subpoena in person. The Department shall pay the costs associated with the appearance of a Department employee whose role as a witness arises out of his or her performance of official duties, regardless of which party requested the subpoena. The failure to make payment of such charges on demand may be deemed by the Hearing Officer or Director as sufficient ground for striking the testimony of the witness and the evidence the witness has produced.

(vi) If a person refuses to obey a subpoena, the Director, acting through the Office of the General Counsel of the Department and the Department of Justice, may apply to the United States District Court in the jurisdiction where that person resides to have the subpoena enforced as provided in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (28 U.S.C. App.).

(3) Testimony required by subpoena pursuant to paragraph (a)(2) of this section may, at the discretion of the Director or a Hearing Officer, be presented at the hearing either in person or telephonically.

(b) Hearing procedures applicable to both record review and hearings.

(1) Upon the filing of an appeal under this part of an adverse decision by any agency, the agency promptly shall provide the Division with a copy of the agency record. If requested by the applicant prior to the hearing, a copy of such agency record shall be provided to the appellant by the agency within 10 days of receipt of the request by the agency.

(2) The Director shall assign the appeal to a Hearing Officer and shall notify the appellant and agency of such assignment. The notice also shall advise the appellant and the agency of the documents required to be submitted under paragraph (c)(2) of this section, and notify the appellant of the option of having a hearing by telephone.

(3) The Hearing Officer will receive evidence into the hearing record without regard to whether the evidence was known to the agency officer, employee, or committee making the adverse decision at the time the adverse decision was made.

(c) Procedures applicable only to hearings.

(1) Upon a timely request for a hearing under § 11.6(b), an appellant has the right to have a hearing by the Division on any adverse decision within 45 days after the date of receipt of the request for the hearing by the Division.

(2) The Hearing Officer shall set a reasonable deadline for submission of the following documents:

(i) By the appellant;

(A) A short statement of why the decision is wrong;

(B) A copy of any document not in the agency record that the appellant anticipates introducing at the hearing; and

(C) A list of anticipated witnesses and brief descriptions of the evidence such witnesses will offer.

(ii) By the agency:

(A) A copy of the adverse decision challenged by the appellant;

(B) A written explanation of the agency's position, including the regulatory or statutory basis therefor;

(C) A copy of any document not in the agency record that the agency anticipates introducing at the hearing; and

(D) A list of anticipated witnesses and brief descriptions of the evidence such witnesses will offer.

(3) Not less than 14 days prior to the hearing, the Division must provide the appellant, the authorized representative, and the agency a notice of hearing specifying the date, time, and place of the hearing. The hearing will be held in the State of residence of the appellant, as determined by the Hearing Officer, or at a location that is otherwise convenient to the appellant, the agency, and the Division. The notice also shall notify all parties of the right to obtain an official record of the hearing.

(4) Pre-hearing conference. Whenever appropriate, the Hearing Officer shall hold a pre-hearing conference in order to attempt to resolve the dispute or to narrow the issues involved. Such pre-hearing conference shall be held by telephone unless the Hearing Officer and all parties agree to hold such conference in person.

(5) Conduct of the hearing.

(i) A hearing before a Hearing Officer will be in person unless the appellant agrees to a hearing by telephone.

(ii) The hearing will be conducted by the Hearing Officer in the manner determined by the Division most likely to obtain the facts relevant to the matter or matters at issue. The Hearing Officer will allow the presentation of evidence at the hearing by any party without regard to whether the evidence was known to the officer, employee, or committee of the agency making the adverse decision at the time the adverse decision was made. The Hearing Officer may confine the presentation of facts and evidence to pertinent matters and exclude irrelevant, immaterial, or unduly repetitious evidence, information, or questions. Any party shall have the opportunity to present oral and documentary evidence, oral testimony of witnesses, and arguments in support of the party's position; controvert evidence relied on by any other party; and question all witnesses. When appropriate, agency witnesses requested by the appellant will be made available at the hearing. Any evidence may be received by the Hearing Officer without regard to whether that evidence could be admitted in judicial proceedings.

(iii) An official record shall be made of the proceedings of every hearing. This record will be made by an official tape recording by the Division. In addition, either party may request that a verbatim transcript be made of the hearing proceedings and that such transcript shall be made the official record of the hearing. The party requesting a verbatim transcript shall pay for the transcription service, shall provide a certified copy of the transcript to the Hearing Officer free of charge, and shall allow any other party desiring to purchase a copy of the transcript to order it from the transcription service.

(6) Absence of parties.

(i) If at the time scheduled for the hearing either the appellant or the agency representative is absent, and no appearance is made on behalf of such absent party, or no arrangements have been made for rescheduling the hearing, the Hearing Officer has the option to cancel the hearing unless the absent party has good cause for the failure to appear. If the Hearing Officer elects to cancel the hearing, the Hearing Officer may:

(A) Treat the appeal as a record review and issue a determination based on the agency record as submitted by the agency and the hearing record developed prior to the hearing date;

(B) Accept evidence into the hearing record submitted by any party present at the hearing (subject to paragraph (c)(6)(ii) of this section), and then issue a determination; or

(C) Dismiss the appeal.

(ii) When a hearing is cancelled due to the absence of a party, the Hearing Officer will add to the hearing record any additional evidence submitted by any party present, provide a copy of such evidence to the absent party or parties, and allow the absent party or parties 10 days to provide a response to such additional evidence for inclusion in the hearing record

(iii) Where an absent party has demonstrated good cause for the failure to appear, the Hearing Officer shall reschedule the hearing unless all parties agree to proceed without a hearing.

(7) Post-hearing procedure. The Hearing Officer will leave the hearing record open after the hearing for 10 days, or for such other period of time as the Hearing Officer shall establish, to allow the submission of information by the appellant or the agency, to the extent necessary to respond to new facts, information, arguments, or evidence presented or raised at the hearing. Any such new information will be added by the Hearing Office to the hearing record and sent to the other party or parties by the submitter of the information. The Hearing Officer, in his or her discretion, may permit the other party or parties to respond to this post-hearing submission.

(d) Interlocutory review. Interlocutory review by the Director of rulings of a Hearing Officer are not permitted under the procedures of this part.

(e) Burden of proof. The appellant has the burden of proving that the adverse decision of the agency was erroneous by a preponderance of the evidence.

(f) Timing of issuance of determination. The Hearing Officer will issue a notice of the determination on the appeal to the named appellant, the authorized representative, and the agency not later than 30 days after a hearing or the closing date of the hearing record in cases in which the Hearing Officer receives additional evidence from the agency or appellant after a hearing. In the case of a record review, the Hearing Officer will issue a notice of determination within 45 days of receipt of the appellant's request for a record review. Upon the Hearing Officer's request, the Director may establish an earlier or later deadline. A notice of determination shall be accompanied by a copy of the procedures for filing a request for Director review under § 11.9. If the determination is not appealed to the Director for review under § 11.9, the notice provided by the Hearing Officer shall be considered to be a notice of a final determination under this part.