Committee Procedures

Pursuant to 2 U.S.C. § 501(e) and the House of Representatives Communications Standards Manual, adopted January 7, 2020, the following rules and procedures for receiving and adjudicating complaints of violations of the frank and other official communications are adopted as follows:

  1. Authority for rules and effective date.
    1. These rules of practice are issued by the House Communications Standards Commission (“Commission”) of the U.S. House of Representatives pursuant to its authority under 2 U.S.C. § 501(e). These Rules of Practice and Procedures of the House Communications Standards Commission replace and supersede ­­­­­­­­­­­­the Rules of Practice In Proceedings Before The House Commission On Congressional Mailing Standards effective upon a majority vote by the Commission.
    2. These rules supersede prior rules of practice adopted by the Commission.
    3. These rules are appliable in all proceedings before the Commission with regard to any complaint filed on or after the date of adoption.
  1. General provisions.
    1. These rules may be modified, amended, or repealed by a vote of the Commission.
    2. When the Commission determines it is necessary and appropriate to provide for equitable procedures or to protect individual, public, or government interests, the Commission may, by a majority vote of its members, adopt any special procedures, not inconsistent with these rules, to resolve a particular matter before it.  The Commission shall provide, in writing, a copy of any special procedures to all parties in the matter.
    3. The Commission may, upon either joint determination of the Chair and Ranking Member of the Commission or vote of the Commission, determine to follow in any matter any administrative procedure provision of sections 551-559 or sections 701-706 of title 5, United States Code, as it determines is practicable, necessary, and appropriate. 
  1. Complaint.
    1. Any person who believes that a person duly authorized to use official communications has violated, or will violate, its use, or has violated the use of official communications under section 3210, 3211, 3212, 3213(2), or 3218, or any other rule or regulation governing official communications, within the immediately preceding period of one (1) year, may submit a complaint of a violation through postal mail, or electronically to the Commission or through the Commission’s online complaint portal.
    2. All allegations in the pleadings shall be made in numbered paragraphs, the contents of each of which shall be limited as far as practicable to a statement of a single set of circumstances, and a paragraph may be referred to by number in all succeeding pleadings. Each complaint founded upon a separate transaction or occurrence and each defense other than denials shall be stated in a separate count or defense whenever a separation facilitates the clear presentation of the matters set forth.
    3. Statements in a pleading may be adopted by reference in a different part of the same pleading or in another pleading or in any motion. A copy of any written instrument which is an exhibit to a pleading is a part thereof for all purposes.
    4. The person so named in the complaint shall be known as the respondent and the person filing the complaint shall be known as the complainant.
    5. A copy of the complaint shall be delivered to the Majority and Minority parties of the Commission.
    6. The Commission may treat multiple complaints about the same or similar alleged violations in the same communication as a single complaint.
    7. The Commission may promulgate a standardized complaint process and the complaint should include the name of the respondent.
    8. The Commission shall take such steps necessary to ensure the security and integrity of any online complaint system.
    9. The Commission may take such steps necessary to ensure against frivolous, malicious, or nuisance complaints.
  1. Notice.
    1. Upon receipt of a valid complaint, the Chair and Ranking Member of the Commission shall promptly provide notice and a copy of the complaint to the respondent.  
    2. The notice shall include a copy of the complaint to be served upon the respondent or his agent and it shall issue a notice stating the date for filing an answer, which shall not exceed five (5) business days following the service date of the notice, and a reference to the effect of failure to file an answer.
    3. Service of all such notices shall be provided through email or hand-delivered by an authorized staff of the Commission to the office of the respondent, and shall require, an acknowledgement of receipt of said papers, showing the date and time of such receipt. Said acknowledgement shall be made a part of the record of the proceedings. The date of delivery, as shown by the acknowledgement of personal service or the return receipt, shall be the date of service.
    4. Extensions may be granted for good cause and with the leave of the Chair and the Ranking Member.
  1. Answer.
    1. The respondent may answer any complaint or request for further review.
    2. If the respondent submits an answer, the answer shall contain a concise statement admitting, denying, or explaining each of the allegations listed in the complaint.
    3. Any facts alleged in the complaint, or requested in a notice for further review, which are not denied or are expressly admitted in the answer may be considered as proved, and no further evidence regarding these facts need be adduced, however, further evidence may be investigated at the discretion of the Chair and Ranking Member.
    4. The answer shall be signed personally by the respondent except for good cause shown.
    5. The answer shall set forth the respondent’s address and, if applicable, the name and address of their attorney.
    6. In the event the respondent fails to provide the Commission with an answer within the time specified, the Commission may issue its decision without further prior notice to the respondent  unless the Chair and Ranking Member agree that good cause would require additional time to respond.. 
  1. Review.
    1. The Chair and Ranking Member will review the respondent's answer to the complaint, and may agree to either dismiss the complaint or conclude that the complaint presents a reasonable justification to warrant further review.
  1. Further Review to Determine if Violation Occurred.
    1. Upon a decision by either the Chair and/or the Ranking Member that further review of the complaint is warranted to determine if a violation has occurred, the respondent shall be given notice of further review.
    2. The Commission may request additional information from either the complainant or the respondent.  If the Commission makes such a request, the complainant or respondent and shall have five (5) business days in which to furnish the Commission with an answer.
    3. Extensions may be granted for good cause and with leave of the Chair and the concurrence of the Ranking Member.
    4. The respondent may put forward any affirmative defenses in their answer.
  1. Hearing.
    1. If the Commission determines there is substantial reason to believe that a violation has occurred or is about to occur the Commission may call for a hearing in which a decision shall be made within 30 days following the date of said hearing, in lieu of a decision within 30 days of a complaint being filed. The Commission shall afford due notice to the respondent, and opportunity for all parties to participate in a hearing before the Commission.
    2. The Chair of the Commission shall schedule the time and place of a hearing which shall take place by the end of the next quarter session of Congress, in consultation with the Ranking Member of the Commission.
    3. A hearing of the Commission may be held either in person or in any mode permitted for House committees to hold meetings, hearings, or markups.
  1. Decision of Commission.
    1. The Commission shall issue a written decision on each valid complaint not later than thirty days after such a complaint is filed with the Commission or, if a hearing is held, not later than thirty days after the conclusion of such hearing.
    2. A decision of the Commission shall be based on written findings of fact in the case by the Commission.
    3. Such findings of fact by the Commission on which its decision is based are binding and conclusive for all judicial and administrative purposes, including purposes of any judicial challenge or review barring any motions to reconsider as outlined in section 12.
  1. Dismissal.
    1. If a majority decision is made that a dismissal of the complaint is warranted, the Chair and Ranking Member of the Commission shall provide notice of dismissal to the respondent and the complainant. Such notice of dismissal will make clear that no violation occurred.
  1. Determination of Violation by Commission Chair and Ranking Member.
    1. In the event the Chair and Ranking Member of the Commission determine that a violation has occurred, the Chair and Ranking Member of the Commission shall determine the penalty. Violations will be made public through the Office of the Clerk's Mass Communications Public Disclosure database or via any disclosure system the Commission deems appropriate in line with how Advisory Opinions are made public.  The Chair and Ranking Member shall provide notice of the penalty to the respondent and the complainant.
  1. Motion to Reconsider.
    1. A party may file a motion for reconsideration of a final Commission decision within ten (10) days after receiving it. Each motion for reconsideration shall be accompanied by new evidence and a brief clearly setting forth the points of fact and of law relied upon in support of said motion.
    2. Extensions may be granted for good cause and with leave of the Chair and the concurrence of the Ranking Member.
  1. Failure of the Commission Chair and Ranking Member to Reach a Determination.
    1. In the event the Chair and Ranking Member of the Commission cannot reach a determination, the question shall be put to the Members of the Commission for a vote.
  1. Failure of the Full Commission to Reach a Determination. 
    1. In the event no determination is reached as the result of a tie vote of the Commission, the Commission shall issue a written decision stating that no violation has been found.
  1. Commission Records.
    1. The Majority and Minority shall each maintain copies of all Commission proceedings, records, data, and files consistent with the archiving best practices promulgated by the Office of the Clerk.
    2. The Commission shall enter into the Congressional Record at the end of each congressional session a summary of all final decisions, including a record of the votes on any question on which a recorded vote is taken.
  1. Computation of Time.
    1. A designated period of time under these rules excludes the day the period begins, and includes the last day of the period unless that 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.
  1. Business Meetings.
    1. Subject to call of the Chair, the Commission shall conduct business meetings each quarter session of Congress to discuss updates to the Commission’s regulations, reports on Commission activities, and to address any pending issues before the Commission. The Chair may waive such quarterly meetings, provided notice is provided to all Commission Members 15 days or more before the end of each quarter.
  1. Frivolous filings.
    1. If a complaint or information offered as a complaint is deemed frivolous by the Commission it may, upon either joint determination of the Chair and Ranking Member of the Commission or vote of the Commission, take such action as the Commission deems appropriate.
  1. Referrals to other authorities. 
    1. The Commission may, upon either joint determination of the Chair and Ranking Member of the Commission or vote of the Commission, refer information received in connection with a complaint to any other House entity or federal, state, or local authority the Commission deems appropriate.