Administrative Law

United States administrative law covers a number of statutes and cases which describe the extent of the powers and responsibilities held by administrative agencies of the United States Government. The executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the U.S. federal government cannot always directly perform their constitutional responsibilities. Specialized powers are therefore delegated to an agency, board, or commission. These administrative governmental bodies oversee and monitor activities in complex areas, such as commercial aviation, medical device manufacturing, and securities markets.

Justice Breyer defines administrative law in four parts. Namely, the legal rules and principles that

(1) define the authority and structure of administrative agencies;

(2) specify the technical formalities employed by agencies;

(3) determine the validity of agency decisions; and

(4) define the role of reviewing courts and other governmental entities in relation to administrative agencies.

U.S. federal agencies have the power to adjudicate, legislate, and enforce laws within their specific areas of delegated power. Agencies legislate through rulemaking - the power to promulgate (or issue) regulations administrative law is codified as the Code of Federal Regulations.

Scope of administrative authority

The authority of administrative agencies stems from their organic statute, and must be consistent with constitutional constraints and legislative intent. Generally speaking, therefore, agencies do not have the power to enact a regulation where:

1. The regulation is an unconstitutional delegation of power (under current caselaw, courts almost never invalidate a regulaton on this ground);
2. The organic statute explicitly denies authority (but note that failure to grant authority in later legislative efforts is not dispositive);
3. The regulation is not based on factual findings;
4. The regulation is not pursuant to serving the "public convenience, interest, or necessity"; or
5. The regulation is outside the agency's statutory purpose as articulated in its organic statute.

Adjudicative versus rule-making acts

Agency acts are divided into two broad categories: rulemaking and adjudication. The scope of these two categories is defined in three ways:

Londoner/Bimetallic definition

Factors tending to make an act adjudicative in nature:

Cases in which an act was ruled to be adjudicative:

Cases in which an act was ruled to be rulemaking:

* Bi-Metallic Investment Co. v. State Board of Equalization, involving a tax levied on the entire city of Denver.

Administrative Procedure Act

According to section 551 of the Administrative Procedure Act,

Rulemaking is "an agency process for formulating, amending, or repealing a rule."
- A rule in turn is "the whole or a part of an agency statement of general or particular applicability and future effect designed to implement, interpret, or prescribe law or policy;"
Adjudication is "an agency process for the formulation of an order;"
- An order in turn is "the whole or part of a final disposition ... of an agency in a matter other than rule making but including licensing;"


Right to a hearing

There are two ways that an individual can attain the right to a hearing in an adjudicative proceeding. First, the Due Process clause of the 5th Amendment or 14th Amendment can need that a hearing be held if the interest that is being adjudicated is sufficiently important or if, without a hearing, there is a strong chance that the petitioner will be erroneously denied that interest. A hearing can also be required if a statute somehow mandates the agency to hold formal hearings when adjudicating certain issues.


Scope and extent of rulemaking power

Federal administrative agencies have the power to spread rules that have the effect of substantive law. The power to do so stems from the agency's organic statute, and extends to all regulations necessary to carry out the purposes of the Act, rather than being limited to powers expressly granted by the statute. The power extends to substantive rules as well as procedural rules. By contrast, many states, such as Kentucky, have been less willing to allow their agencies to promulgate rules with the effect of substantive law.

Agencies may not promulgate retroactive rules unless expressly granted such power by the organic statute. Bowen v. Georgetown University Hospital, 488 U.S. 204 (1988)

The choice of whether to promulgate rules or proceed with ad hoc adjudicative decisions rests in the informed discretion of agencies. SEC v. Chenery Corp., 332 U.S. 194 (1947) (Dissenting opinion arguing that the decision permitted agencies to rule arbitrarily, without law). Agencies may also announce new policies in the course of such adjudications.

Agencies are permitted to rely on rules in reaching their decisions rather than adjudicate, where the promulgation of the rules is within the agency's statutory authority, and the rules themselves are not arbitrary or capricious. Heckler v. Campbell, 461 U.S. 458 (1983).

Agencies must abide by their own rules and regulations. Accardi v. Shaughnessy, 347 U.S. 260 (1954).

Type of rulemaking

There are three types of rulemaking:

State-level administrative law

States may have their own administrative law; for example, a state constitution may allow the legislature to delegate rulemaking authority to an executive or independent agency, and state governments may provide an administrative appeal process for people who are dissatisfied with decisions made by certain state agencies.

California has an extensive body of administrative law including a hearing agency that requires its administrative law judges to be lawyers. California statutory law governing the hearing agency states that non-lawyers may appear before it. However, California case law holds that former attorneys who no longer practice law may not appear before it. Most California agencies adjudicate license cases utilizing the California Attorney General's legal staff. However, others (including the Department of Corporations and Insurance) utilize their own legal staff.

Journals and publications

Reference -

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