7 CFR 900.8 - Conduct of the hearing.
(a)Time and place. The hearing shall be held at the time and place fixed in the notice of hearing, unless the judge shall have changed the time or place, in which event the judge shall file with the hearing clerk a notice of such change, which notice shall be given in the same manner as provided in § 900.4 (relating to the giving of notice of the hearing): Provided, That, if the change in time or place of hearing is made less than 5 days prior to the date previously fixed for the hearing, the judge, either in addition to or in lieu of causing the notice of the change to be given, shall announce, or cause to be announced, the change at the time and place previously fixed for the hearing.
(1)Right to appear. At the hearing, any interested person shall be given an opportunity to appear, either in person or through his authorized counsel or representative, and to be heard with respect to matters relevant and material to the proceeding. Any interested person who desires to be heard in person at any hearing under these rules shall, before proceeding to testify, state his name, address, and occupation. If any such person is appearing through a counsel or representative, such person or such counsel or representative shall, before proceeding to testify or otherwise to participate in the hearing, state for the record the authority to act as such counsel or representative, and the names and addresses and occupations of such person and such counsel or representative. Any such person or such counsel or representative shall give such other information respecting his appearance as the judge may request.
(2)Debarment of counsel or representative. Wherever, while a proceeding is pending before him, the judge finds that a person, acting as counsel or representative for any person participating in the proceeding, is guilty of unethical or unprofessional conduct, the judge may order that such person be precluded from further acting as counsel or representative in such proceeding. An appeal to the Secretary may be taken from any such order, but the proceeding shall not be delayed or suspended pending disposition of the appeal: Provided, That the judge may suspend the proceeding for a reasonable time for the purpose of enabling the client to obtain other counsel or other representative. In case the judge has ordered that a person be precluded from further acting as counsel or representative in the proceeding, the presiding officer, within a reasonable time thereafter shall submit to the Secretary a report of the f acts and circumstances surrounding such order and shall recommend what action the Secretary should take respecting the appearance of such person as counsel or representative in other proceedings before the Secretary. Thereafter the Secretary may, after notice and an opportunity for hearing, issue such order, respecting the appearance of such person as counsel or representative in proceedings before the Secretary, as the Secretary finds to be appropriate.
(c)Order of procedure.
(1) The judge shall, at the opening of the hearing prior to the taking of testimony, have noted as part of the record the notice of hearing as filed with the Office of the Federal Register and the affidavit or certificate of the giving of notice or the determination provided for in § 900.4(c).
(i) Every witness shall, before proceeding to testify, be sworn or make affirmation. Cross-examination shall be permitted to the extent required for a full and true disclosure of the facts.
(ii) When necessary, in order to prevent undue prolongation of the hearing, the judge may limit the number of times any witness may testify to the same matter or the amount of corroborative or cumulative evidence.
(iii) The judge shall, insofar as practicable, exclude evidence which is immaterial, irrelevant, or unduly repetitious, or which is not of the sort upon which responsible persons are accustomed to rely.
(2)Objections. If a party objects to the admission or rejection of any evidence or to any other ruling of the judge during the hearing, he shall state briefly the grounds of such objection, whereupon an automatic exception will follow if the objection is overruled by the judge. The transcript shall not include argument or debate thereon except as ordered by the judge. The ruling of the judge on any objection shall be a part of the transcript. Only objections made before the judge may subsequently be relied upon in the proceeding.
(3)Proof and authentication of official records or documents. An official record or document, when admissible for any purpose, shall be admissible as evidence without the production of the person who made or prepared the same. Such record or document shall, in the discretion of the judge, be evidenced by an official publication thereof or by a copy attested by the person having legal custody thereof and accompanied by a certificate that such person has the custody.
(4)Exhibits. All written statements, charts, tabulations, or similar data offered in evidence at the hearing shall, after identification by the proponent and upon satisfactory showing of the authenticity, relevancy, and materiality of the contents thereof, be numbered as exhibits and received in evidence and made a part of the record. Such exhibits shall be submitted in quadruplicate and in documentary form. In case the required number of copies is not made available, the judge shall exercise his discretion as to whether said exhibits shall, when practicable, be read in evidence or whether additional copies shall be required to be submitted within a time to be specified by the judge. If the testimony of a witness refers to a statute, or to a report or document (including the record of any previous hearing) the judge, after inquiry relating to the identification of such statute, report, or document, shall determine whether the same shall be produced at the hearing and physically be made a part of the evidence as an exhibit, or whether it shall be incorporated into the evidence by reference. If relevant and material matter offered in evidence is embraced in a report or document (including the record of any previous hearing) containing immaterial or irrelevant matter, such immaterial or irrelevant matter shall be excluded and shall be segregated insofar as practicable, subject to the direction of the presiding officer.
(5)Official notice. Official notice may 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 interested persons shall be given adequate notice, at the hearing or subsequent thereto, of matters so noticed and shall be given adequate opportunity to show that such facts are inaccurate or are erroneously noticed.
(6)Offer of proof. Whenever evidence is excluded from the record, 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 to be offered. If the evidence consists of a brief oral statement or of an exhibit, it shall be inserted into the transcript in toto. In such event, it shall be considered a part of the transcript if the Secretary decides that the judge's ruling in excluding the evidence was erroneous. The judge shall not allow the insertion of such evidence in toto if the taking of such evidence will consume a considerable length of time at the hearing. In the latter event, if the Secretary decides that the judge erred in excluding the evidence, and that such error was substantial, the hearing shall be reopened to permit the taking of such evidence.