Article 3A.

Other Administrative Hearings.

150B-38.  Scope; hearing required; notice; venue.

(a)        The provisions of this Article shall apply to:

(1)        Occupational licensing agencies.

(2)        The State Banking Commission, the Commissioner of Banks, and the Credit Union Division of the Department of Commerce.

(3)        The Department of Insurance and the Commissioner of Insurance.

(4)        The State Chief Information Officer in the administration of the provisions of Article 3D of Chapter 147 of the General Statutes.

(5)        The North Carolina State Building Code Council.

(6)        The State Board of Elections in the administration of any investigation or audit under the provisions of Article 22A of Chapter 163 of the General Statutes.

(b)        Prior to any agency action in a contested case, the agency shall give the parties in the case an opportunity for a hearing without undue delay and notice not less than 15 days before the hearing. Notice to the parties shall include:

(1)        A statement of the date, hour, place, and nature of the hearing;

(2)        A reference to the particular sections of the statutes and rules involved; and

(3)        A short and plain statement of the facts alleged.

(c)        Notice shall be given by one of the methods for service of process under G.S. 1A-1, Rule 4(j) or Rule 4(j3). If given by registered or certified mail, by signature confirmation as provided by the United States Postal Service, or by designated delivery service authorized pursuant to 26 U.S.C. 7502(f)(2) with delivery receipt, notice shall be deemed to have been given on the delivery date appearing on the return receipt, copy of proof of delivery provided by the United States Postal Service, or delivery receipt. If notice cannot be given by one of the methods for service of process under G.S. 1A-1, Rule 4(j) or Rule 4(j3), then notice shall be given in the manner provided in G.S. 1A-1, Rule 4(j1).

(d)       A party who has been served with a notice of hearing may file a written response with the agency. If a written response is filed, a copy of the response must be mailed to all other parties not less than 10 days before the date set for the hearing.

(e)        All hearings conducted under this Article shall be open to the public. A hearing conducted by the agency shall be held in the county where the agency maintains its principal office. A hearing conducted for the agency by an administrative law judge requested under G.S. 150B-40 shall be held in a county in this State where any person whose property or rights are the subject matter of the hearing resides. If a different venue would promote the ends of justice or better serve the convenience of witnesses, the agency or the administrative law judge may designate another county. A person whose property or rights are the subject matter of the hearing waives his objection to venue if he proceeds in the hearing.

(f)        Any person may petition to become a party by filing with the agency or hearing officer a motion to intervene in the manner provided by G.S. 1A-1, Rule 24. In addition, any person interested in a contested case under this Article may intervene and participate to the extent deemed appropriate by the agency hearing officer.

(g)        When contested cases involving a common question of law or fact or multiple proceedings involving the same or related parties are pending before an agency, the agency may order a joint hearing of any matters at issue in the cases, order the cases consolidated, or make other orders to reduce costs or delay in the proceedings.

(h)        Every agency shall adopt rules governing the conduct of hearings that are consistent with the provisions of this Article.  (1985, c. 746, s. 1; 1985 (Reg. Sess., 1986), c. 1022, s. 6(3); 1989, c. 76, s. 30; c. 751, s. 7(45); 1991 (Reg. Sess., 1992), c. 959, s. 76; 1999-434, s. 17; 2001-141, s. 8; 2001-193, s. 12; 2001-487, s. 21(h); 2010-169, s. 7; 2011-332, s. 2.3.)

 

150B-39.  Depositions; discovery; subpoenas.

(a)        A deposition may be used in lieu of other evidence when taken in compliance with the Rules of Civil Procedure, G.S. 1A-1.  Parties in a contested case may engage in discovery pursuant to the provisions of the Rules of Civil Procedure, G.S. 1A-1.

(b)        Upon a request for an identifiable agency record involving a material fact in a contested case, the agency shall promptly provide the record to a party, unless the record relates solely to the agency's internal procedures or is exempt from disclosure by law.

(c)        In preparation for, or in the conduct of, a contested case subpoenas may be issued and served in accordance with G.S. 1A-1, Rule 45.  Upon a motion, the agency may quash a subpoena if, upon a hearing, the agency finds that the evidence, the production of which is required, does not relate to a matter in issue, the subpoena does not describe with sufficient particularity the evidence the production of which is required, or for any other reason sufficient in law the subpoena may be quashed.  Witness fees shall be paid by the party requesting the subpoena to subpoenaed witnesses in accordance with G.S. 7A-314.  However, State officials or employees who are subpoenaed shall not be entitled to any witness fees, but they shall receive their normal salary and they shall not be required to take any annual leave for the witness days.  Travel expenses of State officials or employees who are subpoenaed shall be reimbursed as provided in G.S. 138-6. (1985, c. 746, s. 1; 1991, c. 35, s. 8.)

 

150B-40.  Conduct of hearing; presiding officer; ex parte communication.

(a)        Hearings shall be conducted in a fair and impartial manner. At the hearing, the agency and the parties shall be given an opportunity to present evidence on issues of fact, examine and cross-examine witnesses, including the author of a document prepared by, on behalf of or for the use of the agency and offered into evidence, submit rebuttal evidence, and present arguments on issues of law or policy.

If a party fails to appear in a contested case after he has been given proper notice, the agency may continue the hearing or proceed with the hearing and make its decision in the absence of the party.

(b)        Except as provided under subsection (e) of this section, hearings under this Article shall be conducted by a majority of the agency. An agency shall designate one or more of its members to preside at the hearing. If a party files in good faith a timely and sufficient affidavit of the personal bias or other reason for disqualification of any member of the agency, the agency shall determine the matter as a part of the record in the case, and its determination shall be subject to judicial review at the conclusion of the proceeding. If a presiding officer is disqualified or it is impracticable for him to continue the hearing, another presiding officer shall be assigned to continue with the case, except that if assignment of a new presiding officer will cause substantial prejudice to any party, a new hearing shall be held or the case dismissed without prejudice.

(c)        The presiding officer may:

(1)        Administer oaths and affirmations;

(2)        Sign and issue subpoenas in the name of the agency, requiring attendance and giving of testimony by witnesses and the production of books, papers, and other documentary evidence;

(3)        Provide for the taking of testimony by deposition;

(4)        Regulate the course of the hearings, set the time and place for continued hearings, and fix the time for filing of briefs and other documents;

(5)        Direct the parties to appear and confer to consider simplification of the issues by consent of the parties; and

(6)        Apply to any judge of the superior court resident in the district or presiding at a term of court in the county where a hearing is pending for an order to show cause why any person should not be held in contempt of the agency and its processes, and the court shall have the power to impose punishment as for contempt for acts which would constitute direct or indirect contempt if the acts occurred in an action pending in superior court.

(d)       Unless required for disposition of an ex parte matter authorized by law, a member of an agency assigned to make a decision or to make findings of fact and conclusions of law in a contested case under this Article shall not communicate, directly or indirectly, in connection with any issue of fact or question of law, with any person or party or his representative, except on notice and opportunity for all parties to participate. This prohibition begins at the time of the notice of hearing. An agency member may communicate with other members of the agency and may have the aid and advice of the agency staff other than the staff which has been or is engaged in investigating or  prosecuting functions in connection with the case under consideration or a factually-related case. This section does not apply to an agency employee or party representative with professional training in accounting, actuarial science, economics or financial analysis insofar as the case involves financial practices or conditions.

(e)        When a majority of an agency is unable or elects not to hear a  contested case, the agency shall apply to the Director of the Office of Administrative Hearings for the designation of an administrative law judge to preside at the hearing of a contested case under this Article. Upon receipt of the application, the Director shall, without undue delay, assign an administrative law judge to hear the case.

The provisions of this Article, rather than the provisions of Article 3, shall govern a contested case in which the agency requests an administrative law judge from the Office of Administrative Hearings.

The administrative law judge assigned to hear a contested case under this Article shall sit in place of the agency and shall have the authority of the presiding officer in a contested case under this Article. The administrative law judge shall make a proposal for decision, which shall contain proposed findings of fact and proposed conclusions of law.

An administrative law judge shall stay any contested case under this Article on motion of an agency which is a party to the contested case, if the agency shows by supporting affidavits that it is engaged in other litigation or administrative proceedings, by whatever name called, with or before a federal agency, and this other litigation or administrative proceedings will determine the position, in whole or in part, of the agency in the contested case. At the conclusion of the other litigation or administrative proceedings, the contested case shall proceed and be determined as expeditiously as possible.

The agency may make its final decision only after the administrative law judge's proposal for decision is served on the parties, and an opportunity is given to each party to file exceptions and proposed findings of fact and to present oral and written arguments to the agency. (1985, c. 746, s. 1; 1985 (Reg. Sess., 1986), c. 1022, ss. 1(1), 6(3), 6(4).)

 

150B-41.  Evidence; stipulations; official notice.

(a)        In all contested cases, irrelevant, immaterial, and unduly repetitious evidence shall be excluded. Except as otherwise provided, the rules of evidence as applied in the trial division of the General Court of Justice shall be followed; but, when evidence is not reasonably available under such rules to show relevant facts, they may be shown by the most reliable and substantial evidence available. It shall not be necessary for a party or his attorney to object to evidence at the hearing in order to preserve the right to object to its consideration by the agency in reaching its decision, or by the court of judicial review.

(b)        Evidence in a contested case, including records and documents shall be offered and made a part of the record. Other factual information or evidence shall not be considered in determination of the case, except as permitted under G.S. 150B-30. Documentary evidence may be received in the form of a copy or excerpt or may be incorporated by reference, if the materials so incorporated are available for examination by the parties. Upon timely request, a party shall be given an opportunity to compare the copy with the original if available.

(c)        The parties in a contested case under this Article by a stipulation in writing filed with the agency may agree upon any fact involved in the controversy, which stipulation shall be used as evidence at the hearing and be binding on the parties thereto. Parties should agree upon facts when practicable. Except as otherwise provided by law, disposition may be made of a contested case by stipulation, agreed settlement, consent order, waiver, default, or other method agreed upon by the parties.

(d)       Official notice may be taken of all facts of which judicial notice may be taken and of other facts within the specialized knowledge of the agency. The noticed fact and its source shall be stated and made known to affected parties at the earliest practicable time, and any party shall on timely request be afforded an opportunity to dispute the noticed fact through submission of evidence and argument. An agency may use its experience, technical competence, and specialized knowledge in the evaluation of evidence presented to it. (1985, c. 746, s. 1.)

 

150B-42.  Final agency decision; official record.

(a)        After compliance with the provisions of G.S. 150B-40(e), if applicable, and review of the official record, as defined in subsection (b) of this section, an agency shall make a written final decision or order in a contested case. The decision or order shall include findings of fact and conclusions of law. Findings of fact shall be based exclusively on the evidence and on matters officially noticed. Findings of fact, if set forth in statutory language, shall be accompanied by a concise and explicit statement of the underlying facts supporting them. A decision or order shall not be made except upon consideration of the record as a whole or such portion thereof as may be cited by any party to the proceeding and shall be supported by substantial evidence admissible under G.S. 150B-41. A copy of the decision or order shall be served upon each party by one of the methods for service of process under G.S. 1A-1, Rule 5(b). If service is by registered, certified, or first-class mail, by signature confirmation as provided by the United States Postal Service, or by designated delivery service authorized pursuant to 26 U.S.C. 7502(f)(2) with delivery receipt, the copy shall be addressed to the party at the latest address given by the party to the agency. Service by one of the additional methods provided in G.S. 1A-1, Rule 5(b), is effective as provided therein and shall be accompanied by a certificate of service as provided in G.S. 1A-1, Rule 5(b1). G.S. 1A-1, Rule 6(e), applies if service is by first-class mail. A copy shall be furnished to the party's attorney of record.

(b)        An agency shall prepare an official record of a hearing that shall include:

(1)        Notices, pleadings, motions, and intermediate rulings;

(2)        Questions and offers of proof, objections, and rulings thereon;

(3)        Evidence presented;

(4)        Matters officially noticed, except matters so obvious that a statement of them would serve no useful purpose;

(5)        Proposed findings and exceptions; and

(6)        Any decision, opinion, order, or report by the officer presiding at the hearing and by the agency.

(c)        Proceedings at which oral evidence is presented shall be recorded, but need not be transcribed unless requested by a party. Each party shall bear the cost of the transcript or part thereof or copy of said transcript or part thereof which said party requests.  (1985, c. 746, s. 1; 2011-332, s. 2.4.)