Hearing Examiner

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Hearing Examiner

An employee of an Administrative Agency who is charged with conducting adjudicative proceedings on matters within the scope of the jurisdiction of the agency.

Hearing examiners are employees of federal, state, and local administrative agencies who act as judges to resolve conflicts that are within the jurisdiction of their particular agency. Hearing examiners have also been called hearing officers, and since the 1980s, they are commonly referred to as administrative law judges (ALJs).

The growth of administrative law started with the creation of the federal Interstate Commerce Commission and the Federal Trade Commission in the late nineteenth century. Administrative law burgeoned in the 1930s, as President franklin d. roosevelt's New Deal policies led to the establishment of Executive Branch agencies that were charged with regulating the economy and overseeing social welfare policies. Since the 1930s, all levels of government have established administrative agencies.

ALJs are governed by the Administrative Procedure Act (5 U.S.C.A. § 551 et seq. [1966]). They are appointed through a professional merit selection system that requires high test scores and, in many instances, experience in the particular regulatory program in which they wish to serve. Once appointed, ALJs may not be removed or disciplined, except for good cause. These parameters are meant to shield administrative law from political appointments and political pressure.

Hearing examiners serve in different adjudicative areas and are involved in all types of government activity, from the administration of environmental regulations to the review of Unemployment Compensation claims. For example, when an agency is charged with issuing permits, appropriate procedures are set out in administrative regulations. If there are objections to the granting of a permit, a hearing may be held to determine the merits of the application. A hearing examiner conducts the hearing, enforces appropriate rules of evidence and procedure, and issues a decision. This decision may be appealed to a higher level of authority in the agency, and if that does not resolve the issue, to a court proceeding in the judicial branch.

Even though they are not as insulated from political pressures as judicial branch judges, hearing examiners seek to maintain their independence. During the Reagan administration, in the 1980s, this independence was challenged in the Social Security Administration's (SSA's) disability review section. SSA officials, concerned with perceived inconsistencies and inaccuracies in disability rulings, singled out for review federal ALJs who rendered the highest percentage of decisions favorable to claimants. The review program received much criticism for allegedly putting subtle pressure on the ALJs to rule against claimants more often. Though the most intrusive features of the program were abandoned, the program itself served as a reminder that ALJs were part of an administrative agency and not independent, judicial branch decision makers.

References in periodicals archive ?
This would allow for quicker permitting of such housing projects since they would no longer need variances from the Hearing Examiner.
The court held, inter alia, that after weighing the evidence, the hearing examiner determined that Stewart failed to meet his burden of proof that the hernia was a direct cause of his subsequent anoxic brain injury.
After taking additional testimony and holding further hearings, the hearing examiner issued another decision in April 1995.
A final land-use decision on the subdivision and SEPA determination was made by the city hearing examiner on June 13, 2014, continuing to uphold the original conditions.
Kepko, an Ohio Department of Health hearing examiner, in which Kepko ruled the state's decision to revoke the clinic's license as an ambulatory surgical center was valid.
A hearing examiner for the Railroad Commission had previously rejected Marathon's argument, and Marathon appealed.
COURT'S OPINION: The Court of Appeals of Massachusetts reversed the order of the hearing examiner and ordered that benefits be denied.
It's also interesting that this appeal is going to be heard by the Chelan County Hearing Examiner (HE), who has regularly opined in his decisions and remarks to the Board of County Commissioners that he must give "deference to staff.