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Administrative Law: Background Information

What is Administrative Law?

Administrative law is the exercise of government authority by the executive branch and its agencies. Under the delegation doctrine, the legislative branch passes laws called "enabling acts," which give authority to agencies to enact regulations to interpret and administer statutes. These administrative regulations (also called "rules") have the same force of law as statutes. The United States Government Manual cites the statute under which an agency operates and explains the agency's functions and organizational structure.

Administrative law is the most prevalent form of action taken by the government. Agencies enact and enforce legally binding regulations that modify the legal rights of citizens and entities in many aspects of life (e.g., health insurance, student aid, workplace safety, state bar membership, environmental protection, prescription medications, etc.).

Administrative Procedure Acts

The United States and each state has an Administrative Procedure Act. The federal Administrative Procedure Act is codified at 5 U.S.C. §§ 500 et seq., and it governs how federal administrative agencies may propose and enact administrative regulations. It also sets up a review process, allowing U.S. federal courts to directly review agency decisions.