What is an Administrative Law Judge?:
An administrative law judge (ALJ) in the United States (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States) is an official who presides at an administrative trial (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trial_%28law%29)")-type hearing to resolve a dispute between a government agency (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Government_agency) and someone affected by a decision of that agency. The ALJ is usually the initial trier of fact and decision maker. ALJs can administer oaths (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oath), take testimony (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Testimony), rule on questions of evidence (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evidence_%28law%29)"), and make factual and legal determinations.  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Administrative_law_judge#cite_note-0) ALJ-controlled proceedings are comparable to a bench trial (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bench_trial), and, depending upon the agency's jurisdiction, may have complex multi-party adjudication, as is the case with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_Energy_Regulatory_Commission), or simplified and less formal procedures, as is the case with the Social Security Administration (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_Security_Administration).
NYSDHR Administrative Law Judges:
Preside at NYSDHR hearings and make decisions both as to the law governing the case and, additionally, take the place of a jury in a common litigation, by making determinations of fact as well.
Many attorneys advise their clients to expect substantially smaller awards of damages upon a victory in a NYSDHR hearing, as the Administrative Law Judge has a great deal of experience in the field of employment discrimination. This level of experience allows them to come to very accurate determinations of damages, often lacking the sympathy a jury might feel when determining an award of damages.