(a) Inquiries. All inquiries with respect to any matter pending before the Office of Hearings and Appeals shall be directed to the Director, the Chief Administrative Law Judge, or the Chairman of the appropriate Board.
(1) Prohibition. Except to the extent required for the disposition of ex parte matters as authorized by law, there shall be no communication concerning the merits of a proceeding between any party to the proceeding or any person interested in the proceeding or any representative of a party or interested person and any Office personnel involved or who may reasonably be expected to become involved in the decisionmaking process on that proceeding, unless the communication, if oral, is made in the presence of all other parties or their representatives, or, if written, is furnished to all other parties. Proceedings include cases pending before the Office, rulemakings amending this Part 4 that might affect a pending case, requests for reconsideration or review by the Director, and any other related action pending before the Office. The terms “interested person” and “person interested in the proceeding” include any individual or other person with an interest in the agency proceeding that is greater than the interest that the public as a whole may have. This regulation does not prohibit communications concerning case status or advice concerning compliance with procedural requirements unless the area of inquiry is in fact an area of controversy in the proceeding. Any oral communication made in violation of this regulation shall be reduced to writing in a memorandum to the file by the person receiving the communication and shall be included in the record. Any written communication made in violation of this regulation shall be included in the record. In proceedings other than informal rulemakings copies of the memorandum or communication shall be provided to all parties, who shall be given an opportunity to respond in writing.
(2) Sanctions. The administrative law judge, Board, or Director who has responsibility for the matter with respect to which a prohibited communication has been knowingly made may impose appropriate sanctions on the offending person or persons, which may include requiring an offending party to show cause why its claim, motion, or interest should not be dismissed, denied, or otherwise adversely affected; disciplining offending Office personnel pursuant to the Department’s standards of conduct (43 CFR Part 20); and invoking such sanctions against other offending persons as may be appropriate under the circumstances.
(c) Disqualification. An administrative law judge or Board member shall withdraw from a case if he deems himself disqualified under the recognized canons of judicial ethics. If, prior to a decision of an administrative law judge or an Appeals Board, there is filed in good faith by a party an affidavit of personal bias or disqualification with substantiating facts, and the administrative law judge or Board member concerned does not withdraw, the Board or the Director, as appropriate, shall determine the matter of disqualification.