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Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
U.S. Department of Agriculture
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Enforcement Glossary

Administrative Complaints:  After IES refers a case and supporting evidence to USDA’s Office of the General Counsel (OGC) with a request to institute an administrative proceeding, OGC reviews the evidence to determine whether there is reason to believe a violation of an APHIS-administered law has occurred.  If so, OGC prepares an administrative complaint that it files on behalf of APHIS to institute a formal adjudicatory administrative proceeding.  The administrative complaint identifies the alleged violator and the alleged violations, and seeks the imposition of sanctions.  If OGC proceeds with the filing of an administrative complaint, it may offer an alleged violator a consent decision (i.e., an opportunity to settle), or present the case to a USDA Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) for the issuance of an initial decision.

Administrative Decisions:  Obtained after IES forwards a case to OGC to institute an administrative proceeding through the filing of an administrative complaint.  Final administrative decisions are issued at the conclusion of an administrative proceeding and can be issued by an ALJ, USDA’s Judicial Officer, or a U.S. Federal court.  They include (1) initial ALJ decisions (including default decisions) that mandate sanctions, remedies, or actions; (2) consent decisions (i.e., settlements), which are based on agreement between the alleged violator and APHIS; (3) decision and orders issued by the USDA Judicial Officer upon appeal of an ALJ’s initial decision; or (4) a final decision issued by a U.S. Federal court when an aggrieved party appeals or seeks review of a USDA decision.

Cases Initiated:   Unique cases opened by IES in a given fiscal year.  This does not include cases that are still open from previous years.

Civil Penalties:  Penalties assessed as part of orders APHIS obtained administratively through a USDA ALJ, USDA’s Judicial Officer, or a U.S. Federal court.

Monetary Penalties:  A specified amount that an alleged violator agrees to pay through a stipulation agreement to resolve alleged violations.  IES determines monetary penalties using guidelines that APHIS developed based on penalty provisions in the various laws that the Agency administers.

Non-Monetary Stipulations:  Non-monetary pre-litigation settlement agreements are used to resolve alleged violations.  For example, under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), a non-monetary pre-litigation settlement agreement entails that an alleged violator agrees to AWA license revocation or permanent disqualification from obtaining an AWA license; and dispersal of animals used for AWA-regulated activities.

Referral to the Office of the General Counsel (OGC):  The submission of a case to OGC, recommending that OGC file, on APHIS’s behalf, a formal administrative complaint alleging violations of APHIS laws and requesting appropriate sanctions or remedies.  A referral may also recommend that OGC refer the matter to the U.S. Department of Justice for civil or criminal prosecution.  APHIS tracks referrals to OGC using two methods:  (1) a unique case number for the investigative file(s) associated with the referral; and (2) the number of alleged violator(s) included in each referral.  Because some cases include more than one alleged violator, the number of alleged violators referred to OGC for action is almost always larger than the number of unique case numbers referred to OGC for action.

Settlement Agreements:  Voluntary settlement agreements reached between an alleged violator and APHIS.  Stipulations often involve monetary penalties, but in some circumstances can involve non-monetary penalties such as license revocation or disqualification from participating in certain types of regulated activities.  A stipulation notifies an alleged violator of the violation(s), the opportunity for a hearing before a USDA ALJ, and the opportunity to waive the hearing if the alleged violator agrees to a penalty, generally within 30 days.  If an alleged violator accepts and meets the terms of a stipulation, APHIS considers the case closed.

Stipulated Penalties Assessed:  Amount alleged violators agree to pay to APHIS to resolve alleged violations through stipulation agreements with the Agency.  Once an alleged violator meets the terms of a voluntary settlement agreement, with payment of a stipulated penalty for instance, APHIS considers the case closed. 

Warnings:  An official warning notifies an alleged violator of an alleged violation and warns that APHIS may seek civil or criminal penalties if the alleged violation(s) continue.

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