DEFINITION of Administrative Law

Administrative law is the body of law that governs the administration and regulation of government agencies (both federal and state). Congress or the state legislature create administrative law. It encompasses the procedures under which government agencies operate as well as the external constraints upon them. Administrative law is considered a branch of public law and is often referred to as regulatory law.

BREAKING DOWN Administrative Law

Over the years, government agencies have steadily grown both in number and importance in the United States. They affect a wide variety of social issues, such as telecommunications, the financial market and racial discrimination. Examples of these agencies include the Department of Labor (DOL), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC).

Workers’ compensation boards are examples of state-level government bodies that can enact policies and procedures under the direction of the administrative laws that structure them. Such boards have the power to determine if an injured worker is entitled to receive compensation related to injuries sustained in connection with their occupations. The authority outlined by administrative law details the constraints the boards must operate within, how each case must be handled and ways disputes are to be resolved.

How Administrative Law Frame the Powers of Government Agencies

The increasing number of regulatory agencies and new layers of bureaucracy means administrative law must be established or amended to guide these operations. Each agency, department or division of government must have legal parameters that establish the scope and limits of their authority.

The powers granted to government institutions can include the right to draft, enact and enforce policies that industries, companies and private citizens must adhere to.

For example, Internet providers sought deregulation changes regarding how they structured data rates and billing to customers and ways the companies could manage these services. This effort raised debate and concerns about the preservation of net neutrality. The FCC held regulatory authority over such matters because of the administrative laws that outline the commission’s powers. The procedures and actions the FCC could take regarding the proposed changes were also structured by those underlying administrative laws.

The FCC allowed public comment on the proposal before the commission voted in 2018 revoke net neutrality policies.

That decision could have been undone by Congress, which has powers under the Congressional Review Act that allow it to reverse federal regulations. Such an action would require the passage of a joint resolution within a certain time limit.