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Rules of Practice Before the Board of Contract Appeals

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AGENCY:

Postal Service.

ACTION:

Final rule.

SUMMARY:

The Postal Service is amending its rules regarding small claims (expedited) and accelerated proceedings before the Board of Contract Appeals.

EFFECTIVE DATE:

June 29, 2007.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Diane M. Mego, (703) 812-1905.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

The John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007 (109 Pub. L. 364, 120 Stat. 2083 (Oct. 17, 2006)) amended the Contract Disputes Act to require boards of contract appeals to provide a procedure for the disposition of an appeal from a small business concern when the amount in dispute is $150,000 or less. This rule amends 39 CFR part 955 to conform to the statutory change and to make other technical changes to the Small Claims (Expedited) and Accelerated procedure rules before the Board.

These revisions are a statutorily mandated change in agency rules of procedure and make other technical changes to the Board's rules of procedure that do not substantially affect any rights or obligations of private parties. Therefore, it is appropriate for their adoption by the Postal Service to become effective immediately.

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List of Subjects in 39 CFR Part 955

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Accordingly, the Postal Service adopts amendments to

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PART 955—[AMENDED]

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1. The authority citation for part 955 continues to read as follows:

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Authority: 39 U.S.C. 204, 401; 41 U.S.C. 607, 608.

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2. Section 955.13 is revised to read as follows:

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Optional Small Claims (Expedited) and Accelerated Procedures.

(a) The SMALL CLAIMS (EXPEDITED) Procedure. (1) The SMALL CLAIMS (EXPEDITED) procedure is available solely at the election of the appellant. Such election requires decision of the appeal, whenever possible, within 120 days after the Board receives written notice of the appellant's election to utilize this procedure.

(2) The appellant may elect this procedure when

(i) There is a monetary amount in dispute and that amount is $50,000 or less, or

(ii) There is a monetary amount in dispute and that amount is $150,000 or less and the appellant is a small business concern (as that term is defined in the Small Business Act and regulations promulgated under the Act).

(3) In cases proceeding under the SMALL CLAIMS (EXPEDITED) procedure, the respondent shall send the Board a copy of the contract, the contracting officer's final decision, and the appellant's claim letter or letters, if any, within ten days from the respondent's first receipt from either the appellant or the Board of a copy of the appellant's notice of election of the SMALL CLAIMS (EXPEDITED) procedure. If either party requests an oral hearing in accordance with § 955.9, the Board shall promptly schedule such a hearing for a mutually convenient time consistent with administrative due process and the 120-day limit for a decision, at a place determined under § 955.18. If a hearing is not requested by either party, the appeal shall be deemed to have been submitted under § 955.12 without a hearing.

(4) Promptly after receipt of the appellant's election of the SMALL CLAIMS (EXPEDITED) procedure, the Board shall establish a schedule of proceedings that will allow for the timely resolution of the appeal. Pleadings, discovery, and other prehearing activities may be restricted or eliminated at the Board's discretion as necessary to enable the Board to decide the appeal within 120 days after the Board has received the appellant's notice of election of the SMALL CLAIMS (EXPEDITED) procedure. In so doing, the Board may reserve whatever time up to 30 days it considers necessary for preparation of the decision.

(5) Written decision by the Board in cases processed under the SMALL CLAIMS (EXPEDITED) procedure will be short and contain only summary findings of fact and conclusions. Decisions will be rendered for the Board by a single Administrative Judge. If there has been a hearing, the Administrative Judge presiding at the hearing may, in his or her discretion, at the conclusion of the hearing and after entertaining such oral arguments as he or she deems appropriate, render on the record oral summary findings of fact, conclusions of law, and a decision of the appeal. Whenever such an oral decision is rendered, the Board will subsequently furnish the parties a printed copy of such oral decision for the record and payment purposes and for the establishment of the commencement date of the period for filing a motion for reconsideration under § 955.30.

(6) Decisions of the Board under the SMALL CLAIMS (EXPEDITED) procedure will not be published, will have no value as precedents, and in the absence of fraud, cannot be appealed.

(b) The ACCELERATED Procedure. (1) This procedure is available solely at the election of the appellant and shall apply only to appeals where there is a monetary amount in dispute and the amount in dispute is $100,000 or less. Such election requires decision of the appeal, whenever possible, within 180 days after the Board receives written notice of the appellant's election to utilize this procedure.

(2) Promptly after receipt of the appellant's election of the ACCELERATED procedure, the Board shall establish a schedule of proceedings that will allow for the timely resolution of the appeal. The Board, in its discretion, may shorten time periods prescribed elsewhere in these Rules as necessary to enable the Board to decide the appeal within 180 days after the Board has received the appellant's notice of election of the ACCELERATED procedure.

(3) Written decisions by the Board in cases processed under the ACCELERATED procedure will normally be short and contain only summary findings of fact and Start Printed Page 35663conclusions. Decisions will be rendered for the Board by a single Administrative Judge with the concurrence of the Chairman or Vice Chairman or other designated Administrative Judge, or by a majority among these two and an additional designated member in case of disagreement. In cases where the amount in dispute is $50,000 or less and in which there has been a hearing, the single Administrative Judge presiding at the hearing may, with the concurrence of both parties, convert the appeal to a SMALL CLAIMS (EXPEDITED) proceeding and at the conclusion of the hearing, after entertaining such oral arguments as he or she deems appropriate, render on the record oral summary findings of fact, conclusions of law, and a decision of the appeal. Whenever such an oral decision is rendered, the Board will subsequently furnish the parties a printed copy of such oral decision for record and payment purposes and to establish the date of commencement of the period for filing a motion for reconsideration under § 955.30.

(c) At the request of Respondent, or on its own initiative, the Board may determine whether the amount in dispute and/or the appellant's status make the election of the SMALL CLAIMS (EXPEDITED) procedure or the ACCELERATED procedure inappropriate.

(d) Motions for Reconsideration in Cases Arising Under § 955.13. Motions for reconsideration of cases decided under either the SMALL CLAIMS (EXPEDITED) procedure or the ACCELERATED procedure need not be decided within the time periods prescribed by this § 955.13 for the initial decision of the appeal, but all such motions shall be processed and decided rapidly so as to fulfill the intent of this section.

(e) Except as herein modified, the rules of this part 955 otherwise apply in all aspects.

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Stanley F. Mires,

Chief Counsel, Legislative.

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[FR Doc. E7-12491 Filed 6-28-07; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 7710-12-P