First state Administrative Hearings director retires
BISMARCK Allen Hoberg has directed the North Dakota Office of Administrative Hearings since the office was created in 1991. He’ll be retiring from the little-known office effective Dec. 13 to enter private practice with Bismarck’s Baumstark Braaten Law Partners as an attorney specializing in agricultural law.
“We provide independent, unbiased administrative law judges to conduct hearings for state agencies and local entities,” Hoberg said of his job by phone from his office.
“The attorney general had already established an administrative hearings officers division with the idea that it would lead to an independent office of administrative hearings.”
The choice of who then-Gov. George Sinner would appoint the head of that independent office seemed quite clear as Hobert had been running that earlier, less centralized division for the previous two years.
Since then he’s been reappointed first by Gov. Ed Schafer and then twice by Gov. John Hoeven. His current term was set to expire in 2015.
“When I saw that,” he said of facing the end of his term, “I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Then they (Baumstark Braaten) sought me out and I said, ‘Wow, perfect fit.’ “
So he submitted his retirement letter and is ready to move on to the next part of his career.
Born and raised in Minot, he graduated from Minot High School before moving onto Minot State University for two years and then finished his undergraduate work at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.
He realized he had a low draft number, meaning he would have been drafted by lottery anyway, so after finishing college he decided to enlist in the U.S. Army that August.
He was stationed as a military police officer at Oakland Army Base in California, for two years from 1972 through 1974, and due to his planning he was just in time to enroll in law school. He had the help of the G.I. Bill, which pays for the continuing education for those who have served, to pursue his goals.
“It helped me all the way through law school and when I got my LL.M.,” he said of the bill.
An “LL.M.” is a master of laws degree which requires an additional year of study after the Juris Doctor degree, which he obtained from UND’s School of Law in 1977, and an additional thesis paper. He wrote his paper on agricultural matters.
For that extra year of study, though, he went all the way to the University of Arkansas School of Law, in Fayetteville. It was a place to focus on agricultural law.
In fact, while working with the attorney general’s office in North Dakota, Arkansas summoned him back to become director of its new National Agricultural Law Research Center for a year in 1988-1989.
“I’m looking for a new challenge and it’s not entirely new for me, obviously,” Hoberg said of entering the private legal world after years as an administrative law judge and an academic. But he isn’t trying to slow down at all, or at least by much.
“Some people in private practice work long hours. I don’t intend to work long hours,” he said of his next job. “I have an agreement with them … I’ll work full time but not more than full time.”
“I looked at our caseload just yesterday and we’re 52 cases over last year and it’s been increasing for the last several years,” he said of his current work. “It was a challenge to deal with heavier caseloads but that wasn’t my decision for leaving.”
There are still plenty of hearings to go before mid-December rolls along and the biggest increases following the state’s population influx have been worker’s compensation hearings, public service commission hearings and Department of Human Services hearings.
So, he may have a little more free time in his move.
That will leave more time for hobbies like overseas travel, as well as seeing more of the United States, something he has wished to do personally outside of business conference travel.
He and his wife, Mary, an attorney who works in insurance, last made it up to Minot, his hometown, to take in “The Marriage of Figaro,” which was put on in mid-September by the Western Plains Opera Company of Minot. He doesn’t have much reason to come, he said, because he no longer has family here. But he enjoyed the show.
“It was great,” he said of the opera. “I’m not a huge, huge opera fan but ‘(The) Marriage of Figaro’ is one of my favorites.”
His three children are all grown now, too, and it seems that all the reading their parents did to them as children, as well as other cultural experiences, have stayed with them.
His son, Richard, teaches English in Colorado. His oldest daughter, Gwen, has just started a freelance editing business and lives with her husband, Bruce, an attorney, in Minnesota. His youngest daughter, Shiela, just went back to school in California for linguistics and lives with her graphic-designer husband, Matt.
So, with a new challenge in front of him, he doesn’t want to slow down.
“If I’m enjoying it,” he said of the work, “I’ll continue to do it.”
(Prairie Profile is a weekly feature profiling interesting people in our region. We welcome suggestions from our readers. Call Regional Editor Eloise Ogden at 857-1944 or Managing Editor Kent Olson at 857-1939. Either can be reached at 1-800-735-3229. You also can send e-mail suggestions to email@example.com.)