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Administrative law is the body of law governing administrative agencies created by Congress or state legislatures (some examples of such include the Social Security Administration, state Unemployment Insurance Boards and state Welfare Commissions).

Administrative law applies to both federal and state agencies. The agencies' authority is delegated to them by the bodies that created them. Congress delegates to the agencies a broad authority to be able to disseminate rules and regulations that are far more detailed and technical than statutory law.

The rules and regulations promulgated by the agencies and the decisions made by the agencies have the force and effect of law. Administrative agencies generally protect public interests rather than defend private rights.


Administrative law is different from other law in that the cases are tried in administrative courts and have different rules and regulations than civil or criminal courts. Also, administrative cases are presented before a tribunal instead of a judge.

An administrative tribunal (often referred to as “Commission,” “Authority” or “Board)” is a hybrid of mediating authorities that straddle the line between government and the courts. The hybrid, which is sometimes called a “tribunal” or “administrative tribunal”, sits between routine government policy decision-making bodies and the traditional court environments, and it is not necessarily presided over by judges.

Hybrids sometimes operate as a government policy-making body but also exercise a licensing, certifying, approval or other adjudication authority which is considered “quasi-judicial” because it directly affects the legal rights of a person.

The Federal Register Act of 1935 and The Federal Administrative Procedure Act

Up until the 1930s, the U.S. Executive branch agencies and the Office of the President published their own regulations in various separate publications, such as gazettes, bulletins, rulings, digests, pamphlets, notices, codes, certificates, and orders. This excess of authoritative documents made it extremely difficult for the public to find where a U.S. regulation is published, when it was issued and whether it had been altered or revoked.

The Federal Register Act of 1935 required executive agency actions and procedures to be recorded in the Federal Register. Before the Federal Register, thousands of agency rules, decisions, notices and other important documents were published without reference to any organized system or plan. Lawyers, citizens, courts, and even federal agencies operated in ignorance of this law.

The Federal Administrative Procedure Act (enacted in 1946) provided uniform standards of procedure. The Administrative Procedures Act required that notices of proposed rulemaking were also to be published.

Examples of Types of Administrative Law Cases

There are three different common types of administrative law cases: regulatory, entitlement and enforcement. Below you will find a brief description of each.

If it turns out that you have a conflict with a newly implemented law, you can then appeal the regulation before an administrative court. Appealing an environmental regulation implemented by the Environmental Protection Agency would be an example of a regulatory case.

Entitlement cases typically involve denial of social security or workers' compensation benefits. If a person believes to have been denied a benefit they are entitled to receiving, they can appeal the denial at an administrative court.

An enforcement case is when a government agency initiates a hearing against someone who is in violation of the law.

By Margie Monin           


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