The Federal Trade Commission today announced changes to several sections of the agency’s Rules of Practice to streamline the adjudicative review process. The “Part 3" Rules govern how competition and consumer protection cases are tried before an Administrative Law Judge. If appealed following an ALJ’s initial decision, they are heard by the full Commission. The changes illustrate the agency’s ongoing commitment to reviewing the Rules to ensure the agency hearing process is as efficient as possible.
On April 27, 2009, the FTC finalized rules to expedite the prehearing, hearing, and appeal phases of its Part 3 administrative hearings by streamlining discovery and motion practices and tightening deadlines. The changes were part of the FTC’s broad and systematic internal review of its adjudicative proceedings process. When the 2009 changes were completed, the FTC said it would periodically review the Rules and consider additional changes if warranted.
A detailed discussion of the new rule changes can be found in the Federal Register notice in which they are announced. They changes relate to discovery, the labeling and admissibility of certain evidence, and deadlines for oral arguments. More specifically, the changes: 1) clarify that discovery commences upon the ALJ’s issuance of a scheduling order; 2) explain that third parties are protected against burdensome discovery requests; 3) clarify the scope of confidentiality and make changes to the standard protective order form; 4) detail the limitations on certain expert discovery; 5) clarify admissibility of expert reports and prior testimony; 6) no longer require the video recording of proceedings; 7) specify how “confidential” documents should be labeled; and 8) state when oral arguments must be held.
The Commission vote approving changes to the relevant sections of Part 3 of the Rules, and to one related section of Part 4, was 5-0. The revised Rules of Practice can be found on the FTC’s website and as a link to this press release. They will be published shortly in the Federal Register and are not subject to public comment. The changes will govern all FTC adjudicatory proceedings: 1) that begin after the date on which the Federal Register notice is published, as well as 2) those that were pending on that date, unless the Commission rules otherwise.
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