A hearing officer works through the dispute resolution process between agencies and the public. They typically preside over hearings for government agencies. For instance, someone who has been denied disability may ask for an administrative hearing to exercise their rights. The hearing officer listens to both sides of the case and then makes a decision based on what he or she has heard.
A hearing officer acts much like a judge, but only deals with cases involving administrative agencies. The officer's hearings are also much less formal than a traditional court case with a presiding judge. These hearings mostly take place in person, but can also be conducted through mailed testimony as well.
The role of a hearing officer is often seen as being more just than a traditional judge. The officer takes the time to review both sides and lets everyone have their say in the matter. The officer may also listen to testimonies and review evidence to make a judgement decision. This allows both parties to feel that a fair decision was made and not a hasty one.
One major difference between a hearing officer and a judge is that the officer does not normally make a decision until several days or more after the hearing takes place. Most officers make a decision within ten days of the hearing and mail the decision to both parties of the case. This gives the officer considerably more time to review all of the aspects of the case to make an informed and fair decision.