What does a Judge and Hearing Officer do?
Judges and hearing officers research and apply laws to resolve disputes between parties, reach judgements, and oversee the legal process in courts. They conduct pretrial hearings, resolve administrative disputes, and issue legal decisions.
Judges and hearing officers are employed by the federal government or by local and state governments and mostly work full time and in courts.
How to become a Judge and Hearing Officer
Judges and hearing officers typically require a law degree and have experience as a lawyer. A federal administrative law judge must also pass a competitive exam from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
A law degree takes 7 years of full time study after high school which breaks down to: 4 years of undergraduate school, followed by 3 years of law school. Programs for a law degree have courses in contracts, property law, constitutional law, legal writing, and civil procedure.
Most magistrates and judges must be elected or appointed to their positions, which may require political support. Many state and local judges are appointed to serve fixed renewable terms, ranging from 4-14 years. There are a few judges, like appellate court judges that have the appointment for life.
Judges and hearing officers typically learn their skills through years of experience while practicing law. Some states allow those yet qualified as a lawyer to hold limited jurisdiction judgeships, however the opportunities are better for those with experience.
All states have some orientation for newly elected judges and more than half of all states require judges to take continuing education courses while serving on the bench, which usually last from a few days to 3 weeks. Most judges and hearing officers are required to be licensed and must maintain their license and good standing with their state association while working as a hearing officer or judge.
Job Description of a Judge and Hearing Officer
A judge and hearing officer typically has the duties of researching legal issues and reading and evaluating pertinent information from documents, for example, claim applications, records, and motions. He or she presides over hearings and reads and listens to arguments by opposing sides.
Judges and hearing officers determines if all information presented to them supports the dispute, charge, or claim. They determine if the hearing is being conducted according to the rules and the law. He or she applies precedents or laws to resolve disputes between opposing parties and reaches a judgement. They would write instructions, decisions, and opinions involving claims, disputes, and cases.
Judges and hearing officers instruct juries, when selected, on applicable laws and direct them to consider facts based on evidence. A judge that determines guilt in criminal cases may impose a penalty or sentence on the guilty party, or in civil cases, award compensation to the party that wins the law suit.