Law Tips: Things to Know before an Administrative Law Hearing – Who is Your Judge?

Did you pick up the pointers from Lori Torres on managing your administrative law hearings in last week’s Law Tips?  If not, you may want to read that article below where she tried to help you to “avoid any embarrassment so you don’t miss an important point of the protocol.”

Ms. Torres is continuing to open that door for Law Tips readers into the environment across the various cultures and setups of the Indiana state agencies. Another issue Lori covers during ICLEF’s “Revealing the Mysteries of Administrative Law:  A Practitioner’s Guide to Indiana State Agencies”  is understanding the background of the  Administrative Law Judge. Here’s her commentary: 

Who is your Judge?

You want to understand whether the “judge” hearing your case is even a lawyer. Most members of a board or commission are not lawyers. Is the fact finder an agency employee?  In some Department of Homeland Security matters, all State Personnel Department and Department of Insurance cases, the administrative law judge is a full time employee of the agency. At the State Board of Tax Review, most of the hearing officers are not lawyers, but have backgrounds in assessing property. Complicated cases may be referred to senior ALJs. But in some agencies, the fact finder may be an outside lawyer paid on contract by the agency, or simply be lay people appointed by the governor to serve on a board. Some are advised by attorneys from the Indiana Attorney General’s office. At one time, non-lawyers were serving as administrative law judges in IOSHA cases, and weren’t being advised at all!

Currently, the Board of Safety Review that hears all contested IOSHA cases consists generally of professionals knowledgeable in occupational safety matters, but certainly not in summary judgment matters.  A member of the attorney general’s office advisory section now advises the lay administrative law judges if they hear cases. At the state Department of Health, most administrative law judges (“ALJs”) are contract lawyers. At the Department of Workforce Development, they are agency employees. In Family and Social Services Administration, they use both full time agency lawyers, as well as contract attorneys.

Two agencies use independent bodies for adjudication. The Office of Environmental  Adjudication and the Natural Resources Commission hears Indiana Department of Environmental Management matters and Department of Natural Resources matters respectively. These bodies are independently organized, are staffed by full time state employees who are lawyers, but those employees serve in quasi-judicial roles and don’t answer to the agency leadership or management. They were organized to avoid the appearance of undue influence being exerted by agency leadership.

The landscape is very different agency to agency and year to year. Know and understand your environment. Across the state of Indiana, every conceivable permutation of this exists. Be prepared to address issues that a non-lawyer fact finder may not understand.

We appreciate Lori Torres providing the benefit of her broad experience in Indiana’s state agencies.  If you are interested in the CLE covering the ins and outs of practicing administrative law in Indiana, take a look at ICLEF’s On Demand or Video Replay of “Revealing the Mysteries of Administrative Law:  A Practitioner’s Guide to Indiana State Agencies.” 

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About our Law Tips faculty participants:
Lori Torres, Ice Miller LLP, Indianapolis, is of counsel in the law firm’s Public Affairs Group. She concentrates her practice in the areas of public affairs, public policy planning, economic development, real estate, and labor and employment focusing on state wage and hour issues.  Torres is a veteran of Indiana state government, having served in a cabinet post position in the Indiana Department of Labor under Gov. Mitch Daniels for more than six years. Prior to her appointment to the DOL, Torres spent 20 years in private practice in Johnson, Marion and surrounding counties in Indiana.

About our Law Tips blogger:
Nancy Hurley has long-standing connections with Indiana lawyers. She was formerly a member of the ISBA and IBF staffs for over 30 years. Nancy’s latest lifestyle venture is with ICLEF. We are utilizing her exceptional writing and interviewing skills while exploring how her Indiana-lawyer background fits with ICLEF’s needs. When she isn’t ferreting out new topics for Law Tips, her work can be found in our Speaker Spotlight blogs, postings on the ICLEF Facebook and Twitter pages, and other places her legal experience lends itself.

Thank you for reading Law Tips. You may subscribe to this weekly blog through the RSS link at the top of this page.  Also, you are encouraged to comment below or email Nancy. She welcomes your input as she continues to sift through the treasure trove of knowledge of our CLE faculty to share with you.

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

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