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Political Science Department

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Administrative Law

"Administrative law is the body of law that governs the activities of the modern administrative state.  Administrative law includes the statutes enacted by Congress and the state legislatures that establish, empower and restrict agency actions.  It includes the executive orders issued by presidents and governors that direct agencies to undertake certain activities or conduct their activities in certain ways. Administrative law also includes the myriad rules, regulations and orders issued by agencies themselves under powers delegated to them by legislatures.  Finally, and most importantly, administrative law encompasses the decisions of the federal and state courts interpreting these statutes, orders and rules as well as the relevant principles of the federal and state constitutions. Administrative law is thus a branch of the public law, which is the body of law that deals with government.  Accordingly, administrative law is closely related to constitutional law, which consists of judicial interpretations of the federal and state constitutions.  Administrative law overlaps with constitutional law to the extent that courts rely on constitutional provisions in reviewing the actions of public agencies."

From Scheb and Scheb, Law and the Administrative Process (Wadsworth Publishing, 2005), p. 2.

Justice Robert H. Jackson“The rise of administrative bodies probably has been the most significant legal trend of the last century.... They have become a veritable fourth branch of the Government, which has deranged our three-branch legal theories....”

Justice Robert H. Jackson, dissenting in FTC v. Ruberoid Co., 343 U.S. 470, 487 (1952).


"...[T]he range of control conferred by Congress and the State legislatures upon subsidiary law-making bodies, variously denominated as heads of departments, commissions and boards, penetrates the whole gamut of human affairs. Hardly a measure passes Congress the effective execution of which is not conditioned upon rules and regulations emanating from the enforcing authorities."

Felix Frankfurter, "The Task of Administrative Law" (1927)

To get a sense of the subject, take a look at the following court decisions