[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 126 (Wednesday, July 1, 2015)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 37565-37567]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-16143]


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POSTAL SERVICE

39 CFR Part 957


Rules of Practice in Proceedings Relative to Debarment From 
Contracting

AGENCY: Postal Service.

ACTION: Proposed rule.

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SUMMARY: This document requests comments regarding a revision of the 
rules for proceedings in which the Judicial Officer Department conducts 
fact-finding relative to debarments. The revised rules of procedure 
would completely replace and supersede the prior rules.

DATES: Comments must be received on or before July 31, 2015.

ADDRESSES: Judicial Officer Department, United States Postal Service, 
2101 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 600, Arlington, VA 22201-3078.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Associate Judicial Officer Gary E. 
Shapiro, (703) 812-1910.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The rules governing the Judicial Officer's 
role regarding Postal Service debarments are set forth in 39 CFR part 
957. The proposed rules would completely replace the former rules of 
this part.
    In 2007, the Postal Service changed its procurement regulations 
regarding suspension and debarment from contracting. See 72 FR 58252 
(October 15, 2007). Whereas prior to that change, the Judicial Officer 
conducted hearings and rendered final agency decisions regarding 
suspension and debarment from contracting, the revised procurement 
regulations at 39 CFR 601.113 eliminated any role of the Judicial 
Officer from suspensions, and reserved final agency action regarding 
debarments to the Vice President, Supply Management. The remaining role 
of the Judicial Officer relative to debarment from contracting is set 
forth in paragraphs (g)(2) and (h)(2) of Sec.  601.113. Those 
paragraphs provide that the Vice President, Supply Management, may 
request the Judicial Officer to conduct fact-finding hearings to 
resolve questions of material facts involving a debarment, and will 
consider those findings when deciding the matter. Under paragraph 
(h)(2) of Sec.  601.113, fact-finding hearings will be governed by 
rules of procedure promulgated by the Judicial Officer. These rules of 
procedure satisfy that requirement.

List of Subjects in 39 CFR Part 957

    Administrative practice and procedure, Government contracts.

    Accordingly, for the reasons stated, the Postal Service proposes to 
revise 39 CFR part 957 to read as follows:

PART 957--RULES OF PRACTICE IN PROCEEDINGS RELATIVE TO DEBARMENT 
FROM CONTRACTING

Sec.
957.1 Authority for rules.
957.2 Scope of rules.
957.3 Definitions.
957.4 Authority of the Hearing Officer.
957.5 Case initiation.
957.6 Filing documents for the record.
957.7 Failure to appear at the hearing.
957.8 Hearings.
957.9 Appearances.
957.10 Conduct of the hearing.
957.11 Witness fees.
957.12 Transcript.
957.13 Proposed findings of fact.
957.14 Findings of fact.
957.15 Computation of time.
957.16 Official record.
957.17 Public information.
957.18 Ex parte communications.

    Authority: 39 U.S.C. 204, 401.


Sec.  957.1  Authority for rules.

    The rules in this part are issued by the Judicial Officer of the 
Postal Service pursuant to authority delegated by the Postmaster 
General (39 U.S.C. 204, 401).


Sec.  957.2  Scope of rules.

    The rules in this part apply to proceedings initiated pursuant to 
paragraphs (g)(2) or (h)(2) of Sec.  601.113 of this chapter.


Sec.  957.3  Definitions.

    (a) Vice President means the Vice President, Supply Management, or 
the Vice President's representative for the purpose of carrying out the 
provisions of Sec.  601.113 of this chapter.
    (b) General Counsel includes the Postal Service's General Counsel 
and any designated representative within the Office of the General 
Counsel.
    (c) Judicial Officer includes the Postal Service's Judicial 
Officer, Associate Judicial Officer, and Acting Judicial Officer.
    (d) Debarment has the meaning given by paragraph (b)(2) of Sec.  
601.113 of this chapter.
    (e) Respondent means any individual, firm or other entity which has 
been served a written notice of proposed debarment pursuant to 
paragraph (h), or which previously has been debarred, as provided in 
paragraph (g)(2) of Sec.  601.113 of this chapter.
    (f) Hearing Officer means the judge assigned to the case by the 
Judicial Officer. The Hearing Officer may be the Judicial Officer, 
Associate Judicial Officer, Administrative Law Judge or an 
Administrative Judge who is a member of the Postal Service Board of 
Contract Appeals.
    (g) Recorder means the Recorder of the Judicial Officer Department 
of the United States Postal Service, 2101 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 600, 
Arlington, VA 22201-3078. The Recorder's telephone number is (703) 812-
1900, fax number is (703) 812-1901, and the Judicial Officer's Web site 
is http://www.about.usps.com/who-we-are/judicial/welcome.htm.


Sec.  957.4  Authority of the Hearing Officer.

    The Hearing Officer's authority includes, but is not limited to, 
the following:

[[Page 37566]]

    (a) Ruling on all motions or requests by the parties.
    (b) Issuing notices, orders or memoranda to the parties concerning 
the hearing proceedings.
    (c) Conducting conferences with the parties. The Hearing Officer 
will prepare a Memorandum of Conference, which will be transmitted to 
both parties and which serves as the official record of that 
conference.
    (d) Determining whether an oral hearing will be conducted, and 
setting the place, date, and time for such a hearing.
    (e) Administering oaths or affirmations to witnesses.
    (f) Conducting the proceedings and the hearing in a manner to 
maintain discipline and decorum while ensuring that relevant, reliable 
and probative evidence is elicited, but irrelevant, immaterial or 
repetitious evidence is excluded. The Hearing Officer in his or her 
discretion may examine witnesses to ensure that a satisfactory record 
is developed.
    (g) Establishing the record. The weight to be attached to evidence 
will rest within the discretion of the Hearing Officer. Except as the 
Hearing Officer may otherwise order, no proof shall be received in 
evidence after completion of a hearing. The Hearing Officer may require 
either party, with appropriate notice to the other party, to submit 
additional evidence on any relevant matter.
    (h) Granting reasonable time extensions or other relief for good 
cause shown, in the Hearing Officer's sole discretion.
    (i) Issuing findings of fact. The Hearing Officer will issue 
findings of fact to the Vice President within 30 days from the close of 
the record, to the extent practicable.


Sec.  957.5  Case initiation.

    (a) Upon receipt of a request or referral from the Vice President, 
the Recorder will docket a case under this Part. Following docketing, 
the Judicial Officer will assign a Hearing Officer. The Hearing Officer 
will establish the schedule for the proceeding, perform all judicial 
duties under this Part and render Findings of Fact. Whenever 
practicable, a hearing should be conducted within 30 days of the date 
of docketing.
    (b) The request or referral from the Vice President shall include 
the notice of proposed debarment and the information or argument 
submitted by the Respondent pursuant to paragraphs (g) or (h) of Sec.  
601.113 of this chapter.


Sec.  957.6  Filing documents for the record.

    The parties shall file documents, permitted by the rules in this 
part or required by the Hearing Officer, in the Judicial Officer 
Department's electronic filing system. The Web site for electronic 
filing is https://uspsjoe.justware.com/justiceweb. Documents submitted 
using that system are considered filed as of the date and time (Eastern 
Time) reflected in the system. Orders issued by the Hearing Officer 
shall be considered received by the parties on the date posted to the 
electronic filing system.


Sec.  957.7  Failure to appear at the hearing.

    If a party fails to appear at the hearing, the Hearing Officer may 
proceed with the hearing, receive evidence and issue findings of fact 
without requirement of further notice to the absent party.


Sec.  957.8  Hearings.

    Hearings ordinarily will be conducted in the Judicial Officer 
Department courtroom at 2101 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 600, Arlington, VA 
22201-3078. However, the Hearing Officer, in his or her discretion, may 
order the hearing to be conducted at another location, or by another 
means such as by video.


Sec.  957.9  Appearances.

    (a) An individual Respondent may appear in his or her own behalf, a 
corporation may appear by an officer thereof, a partnership or joint 
venture may appear by a member thereof, or any of these may appear by a 
licensed attorney.
    (b) After a request for a hearing has been filed pursuant to the 
rules in this part, the General Counsel shall designate a licensed 
attorney as counsel assigned to handle the case.
    (c) All counsel, or a self-represented Respondent, shall register 
in the electronic filing system, and request to be added to the case. 
Counsel also promptly shall file notices of appearance.
    (d) An attorney for any party who has filed a notice of appearance 
and who wishes to withdraw must file a motion requesting withdrawal, 
explaining the reasons supporting the motion, and identifying the name, 
email address, mailing address, telephone number, and fax number of the 
person who will assume responsibility for representation of the party 
in question.


Sec.  957.10  Conduct of the hearing.

    The Hearing Officer may approve or disapprove witnesses in his or 
her discretion. All testimony will be taken under oath or affirmation, 
and subject to cross-examination. The Hearing Officer may exclude 
evidence to avoid unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, undue 
delay, waste of time, or presentation of irrelevant, immaterial or 
cumulative evidence. Although the Hearing Officer will consider the 
Federal Rules of Evidence for guidance regarding admissibility of 
evidence and other evidentiary issues, he or she is not bound by those 
rules. The weight to be attached to evidence presented in any 
particular form will be within the discretion of the Hearing Officer, 
taking into consideration all the circumstances of the particular case. 
Stipulations of fact agreed upon by the parties may be accepted as 
evidence at the hearing. The parties may stipulate the testimony that 
would be given by a witness if the witness were present. The Hearing 
Officer may in any case require evidence in addition to that offered by 
the parties. A party requiring the use of a foreign language 
interpreter allowing testimony to be taken in English for itself or 
witnesses it proffers is responsible for making all necessary 
arrangements and paying all costs and expenses associated with the use 
of an interpreter.


Sec.  957.11  Witness fees.

    Each party is responsible for the fees and costs for its own 
witnesses.


Sec.  957.12  Transcript.

    Testimony and argument at hearings shall be reported verbatim, 
unless the Hearing Officer otherwise orders. Transcripts of the 
proceedings will be made available or provided to the parties.


Sec.  957.13  Proposed findings of fact.

    (a) The Hearing Officer may direct the parties to submit proposed 
findings of fact and supporting explanations within 15 days after the 
delivery of the official transcript to the Recorder who shall notify 
both parties of the date of its receipt. The filing date for proposed 
findings shall be the same for both parties.
    (b) Proposed findings of fact shall be set forth in numbered 
paragraphs and shall state with particularity all evidentiary facts in 
the record with appropriate citations to the transcript or exhibits 
supporting the proposed findings.


Sec.  957.14  Findings of fact.

    The Hearing Officer shall issue written findings of fact, and 
transmit them to the Vice President. Copies will be sent to the 
parties.

[[Page 37567]]

Sec.  957.15  Computation of time.

    A designated period of time under the rules in this part excludes 
the day the period begins, and includes the last day of the period 
unless the last day is a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, in which 
event the period runs until the close of business on the next business 
day.


Sec.  957.16  Official record.

    The transcript of testimony together with all pleadings, orders, 
exhibits, briefs, and other documents filed in the proceeding shall 
constitute the official record of the proceeding.


Sec.  957.17  Public information.

    The Postal Service shall maintain for public inspection copies of 
all findings of fact issued under this Part, and make them available 
through the Postal Service Web site. The Recorder maintains the 
complete official record of every proceeding.


Sec.  957.18  Ex parte communications.

    The provisions of 5 U.S.C. 551(14), 556(d), and 557(d) prohibiting 
ex parte communications are made applicable to proceedings under these 
rules of practice.

Stanley F. Mires,
Attorney, Federal Compliance.
[FR Doc. 2015-16143 Filed 6-30-15; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 7710-12-P