49:956     Rules of evidence; official notice; oaths and affirmations; subpoenas; depositions and discovery; and confidential privileged information


In adjudication proceedings:


(1) Agencies may admit and give probative effect to evidence which possesses probative value commonly accepted by reasonably prudent men in the conduct of their affairs.  They shall give effect to the rules of privilege recognized by law.  Agencies may exclude incompetent, irrelevant, immaterial, and unduly repetitious evidence.  Objections to evidentiary offers may be made and shall be noted in the record.  Subject to these requirements, when a hearing will be expedited and the interests of the parties will not be prejudiced substantially, any part of the evidence may be received in written form.


(2) All evidence, including records and documents in the possession of the agency of which it desires to avail itself, shall be offered and made a part of the record, and all such documentary evidence may be received in the form of copies or excerpts, or by incorporation by reference. In case of incorporation by reference, the materials so incorporated shall be available for examination by the parties before being received in evidence.


(3) Notice may be taken of judicially cognizable facts.  In addition, notice may be taken of generally recognized technical or scientific facts within the agency's specialized knowledge.  Parties shall be notified either before or during the hearing, or by reference in preliminary reports or otherwise, of the material noticed, including any staff memoranda or data, and they shall be afforded an opportunity to contest the material so noticed. The agency's experience, technical competence, and specialized knowledge may be utilized in the evaluation of the evidence.


(4) Any agency or its subordinate presiding officer conducting a proceeding subject to this Chapter shall have the power to administer oaths and affirmations, regulate the course of the hearings, set the time and place for continued hearings, fix the time for filing of briefs and other documents, and direct the parties to appear and confer to consider the simplification of the issues.


(5)(a) Any agency or its subordinate presiding officer shall have power to sign and issue subpoenas in the name of the agency requiring attendance and giving of testimony by witnesses and the production of books, papers, and other documentary evidence.  No subpoena shall be issued until the party who wishes to subpoena the witness first deposits with the agency a sum of money sufficient to pay all fees and expenses to which a witness in a civil case is entitled pursuant to R.S. 13:3661 and R.S. 13:3671.


(b) A subpoena issued pursuant to this Section shall be served by any agent of the agency, by the sheriff, by any other officer authorized by law to serve process in this state, by certified mail, return receipt requested, or by any person who is not a party and who is at least eighteen years of age.  Witnesses subpoenaed to testify before an agency only to an opinion founded on special study or experience in any branch of science, or to make scientific or professional examinations, and to state the results thereof, shall receive such additional compensation from the party who wishes to subpoena such witness as may be fixed by the agency with reference to the value of the time employed and the degree of learning or skill required.


(c) Whenever any person summoned under this Section neglects or refuses to obey such summons, or to produce books, papers, records, or other data, or to give testimony, as required, the agency may apply to the judge of the district court for the district within which the person so summoned resides or is found, for an attachment against him as for a contempt.  It shall be the duty of the judge to hear the application, and, if satisfactory proof is made, to issue an attachment, directed to some proper officer, for the arrest of such person, and upon his being brought before him, to proceed to a hearing of the case; and upon such hearing, the judge shall have power to make such order as he shall deem proper, not inconsistent with the law for the punishment of contempts, to enforce obedience to the requirements of the summons and to punish such person for his default or disobedience.


(6) The agency or a subordinate presiding officer or any party to a proceeding before it may take the depositions of witnesses, within or without the state and may conduct discovery in all manners as provided by law in civil actions.  Depositions so taken and admissions, responses, and evidence produced pursuant to discovery shall be admissible in any proceeding affected by this Chapter.  The admission of such depositions, admissions, responses, and evidence may be objected to at the time of hearing and may be received in evidence or excluded from the evidence by the agency or presiding officer in accordance with the rules of evidence provided in this Chapter.


(7) Repealed by Acts 1995, No. 760, § 2, eff. June 27, 1995.


(8)(a) Records and documents, in the possession of any agency or of any officer or employee thereof including any written conclusions drawn therefrom, which are deemed confidential and privileged shall not be made available for adjudication proceedings of that agency and shall not be subject to subpoena by any person or other state or federal agency.


(b) Such records or documents shall only include any private contracts, geological and geophysical information and data, trade secrets and commercial or financial data, which are obtained by an agency through a voluntary agreement between the agency and any person, which said records and documents are designated as confidential and privileged by the parties when obtained, or records and documents which are specifically exempt from disclosure by statute.


(c) Any violation of this prohibition shall be a waiver of governmental immunity from suit for damage resulting from any such disclosure.


(d) Notwithstanding the provisions of Subparagraphs (a) and (c) of this Paragraph, the state boards and agencies identified in R.S. 13:3715.1(J) may make available and use records and documents, including any written conclusions drawn therefrom, which are otherwise deemed confidential or privileged and which are in the possession of such board or agency or any officer, employee, or agent thereof, or any attorney acting on its behalf in any adjudication proceedings of such agency, provided that in any case involving medical or patient records, the identity of any patient shall be maintained in confidence.  Any such records shall be altered so as to prevent the disclosure of the identity of the patient to whom such records or testimony relates.  Disclosure by such board or agency or any officer, employee, agent, or attorney acting on behalf of any of them, of any material otherwise deemed privileged or confidential under state law, which is made in response to a federal subpoena, shall not constitute a waiver of governmental immunity from suit for damages resulting from such disclosure.  Such boards and agencies, including their officers, employees, agents, and attorneys, shall nevertheless assert any privilege which is recognized and applicable under federal law when responding to any such federal subpoena.


Added by Acts 1966, No. 382, § 6, eff. July 1, 1967.  Amended by Acts 1976, No. 524, § 1, eff. Aug. 5, 1976;  Acts 1989, No. 156, § 1;  Acts 1995, No. 760, § 1, eff. June 27, 1995;  Acts 1999, No. 416, § 1;  Acts 1999, No. 765, § 1.