Earning a law degree represents the first step to become a hearing examiner, who serves in a quasi-judicial role. When a government agency solicits a hearing examiner, it usually wants someone with experience in a specific field, such as land-use planning or education. Some regions require licenses for hearing examiners within defined jurisdictions. A number of years' experience in economics, environmental science, or land use might also be needed to become a hearing examiner for the government.
To become a hearing examiner, a candidate typically must show the ability to evaluate and decide each case without bias. The examiner must be free from any conflict of interest that might influence the final outcome of a hearing. This professional might be prohibited from holding any public office or outside job as a requirement to become a hearing examiner, especially in politically charged regions.
Hearing examiners commonly work for planning departments by adjudicating formal hearings on development applications or appeals on prior decisions. Regional law might dictate public hearings for development in environmentally sensitive areas, requests for rezoning, and applications for special use permits. To become a hearing examiner for land use issues, an applicant typically needs knowledge of development regulations in the area. He or she might also be asked to show samples of prior rulings.
Some public agencies rely upon a hearing officer to handle civil violations, or ethics complaints filed against elected officials. The officer might also oversee nuisance complaints and appeals on drug forfeiture proceedings. A hearing officer’s decision could be final in some areas. In other regions, the hearing officer compiles a report outlining evidence and forwards a recommendation to an elected or appointed body.
Knowledge of employment law might be necessary to become a hearing examiner for some public agencies, such as a school district. Hearings might cover grievances filed by employees, or discrimination claims. They might also involve termination disputes or failure to renew employment contracts. An attorney striving to become a hearing officer for a certain public agency might need experience in employment law specific to that branch of government.
Most cities or counties define duties of a hearing examiner by ordinance. The law typically authorizes the types of cases the examiner might hear and the term of appointment. An ordinance might also describe minimum qualifications to become a hearing examiner and the scope of power transferred to the position. As an administrative law judge, the examiner might work as a staff member or independent contractor.