5. Factfinding

  •  By a Panel Representative With Recommendations for Settlement

In important disputes involving issues of first impression, heightened public interest, or of a highly technical nature, a factfinding hearing creates a complete record of documentary evidence and expert witness testimony on which to base a decision. It is the most formal of the Panel's procedures. A pre-hearing conference is conducted to facilitate preparations for the hearing and to explore settlement possibilities. To expedite the process, the Panel asks parties to stipulate through joint exhibits to any facts that are not in dispute. During the factfinding hearing, the Panel representative (factfinder) in charge of the proceeding has the authority to issue subpoenas, and to allow the parties to call witnesses who are under oath. The parties may question the witnesses through direct and cross examination; the factfinder may also question the witnesses and the parties' representatives as necessary to ensure that a complete record is created. An official transcript of the proceeding is made; the parties make arrangements to purchase copies from the court reporting service for their own use. Afterwards, the parties are normally permitted to submit post-hearing briefs. The factfinder issues a report summarizing the evidence and arguments presented, the parties' final offers and positions, and his or her recommendations for settlement. Copies of the report are sent to the parties, who have 30 days in which to reach an agreement or present their reasons, in writing, as to why the factfinder's recommendations should or should not be adopted. If the issues are not resolved as a result of the factfinder's recommendations, after considerin