Administrative Law: Introduction

Definition

Administrative law is the body of law that governs the activities of administrative agencies of government. Government agency action can include rulemaking, adjudication, or the enforcement of a specific regulatory agenda. Administrative law is considered a branch of public law. As a body of law, administrative law deals with the decision-making of administrative units of government (for example, tribunals, boards or commissions) that are part of a national regulatory scheme in such areas as police law, international trade, manufacturing, the environment, taxation, broadcasting, immigration and transport. Administrative law expanded greatly during the twentieth century, as legislative bodies worldwide created more government agencies to regulate the increasingly complex social, economic and political spheres of human interaction.

Civil law countries often have specialized courts, administrative courts that review these decisions. The plurality of administrative decisions contested in administrative courts is related to taxation.

Federal Administrative Law

Federal administrative law comes from the President, agencies of the Executive Branch, and independent regulatory agencies. The President issues executive orders, proclamations, and reorganization plans. Executive and independent agencies issue rules and regulations that have the force of statutory law. In addition, the agencies make administrative decisions that range in procedural format from informal and private to complex on a full judicial scale. Consequently, administrative law covers a wide variety of materials ranging from in-house memoranda to lengthy opinions written by administrative law judges. This guide describes the most important administrative materials and indicates where they are located in the library, online, and on the web.

California Administrative Law

In California, the term administrative law (also known as regulatory law) refers to the body of law created by the California executive and administrative agencies. Executive departments are established or authorized by the California Constitution. Administrative agencies may be established directly by the Constitution (Public Utilities Commission) or be created by or have authority delegated to them from the legislature. Agencies may sometimes be called Commissions or Boards.

Agencies have quasi-legislative power. Quasi-legislative enactments are generally referred to as regulations or rules. Agencies also have quasi-judicial power and may issue advisory opinions. The terminology for the adjudicatory functions (decisions in disputes) and advisory functions varies from agency to agency; they are typically referred to as decisions or opinions but may also be called orders.