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What is Administrative Law?

By Mona D. Rigdon
Updated Feb 29, 2024
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Administrative law is the branch of law that oversees the bodies of government that are responsible for administration. Agencies that function in an administrative capacity generally work as a branch of public law and deal with decision-making arms of the government. Boards, agencies and commissions are bodies that function as part of the administrative law system. As legislative bodies the world over have created additional government agencies to regulate social, political and economic cultures since the early 1900s, this type of law has expanded internationally.

Regulatory administrative laws apply to public officials and public agencies. Administrative authority is different from legislative or judicial authority in that it includes the power to create rules and regulations based on the statutes that legislative authorities put into effect. These bodies also have the power to grant licenses and permits, begin investigations and provide remedies to complaints, oversee the conduct of the business of government and issue orders to parties to comply with certain rules or laws. Administrative law judges are government officials who act under quasi-judicial powers in conducting hearings, issuing findings of fact and issuing orders of compliance.

Administrative law is less open to review than civil or criminal law in most countries, but there generally is a process of review. The procedures for judicial review usually work in conjunction with legislation or other legal doctrines that create the standard for proper rule making. These laws generally allow administrative bodies to review the decisions of semi-private entities such disciplinary boards, nonprofit corporations or other entities that deal with the rights of a particular group of people. Under principles of judicial review, some decisions of administrative law bodies can be reviewed based on due process claims or fundamental justice, depending on the country. Administrative appeal is different from judicial review in that judicial review allows the court to look only at the procedures and methods the administrative body used to arrive at the decision, whereas administrative appeal decides whether the decision itself was correct.

Some examples of administrative bodies are those in the United States that oversee fairness and anti-discrimination laws in employment, such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; and those that rule upon eligibility for government benefits, such as the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review. In some nations such as France, administrative law bodies such as the Conseil d'État handle claims against the national government. Although administrative laws and the bodies that make and enforce them have been around for hundreds of years in some form, it is new to many nations. In Brazil, administrative law was introduced in the form of regulatory agencies as part of the executive branch in 1998. China did not see the benefits of administrative law until the 1980s, during the economic reform period brought about by Deng Xiaoping.

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Discussion Comments
By burcidi — On Feb 08, 2011

@turkay1-- It depends on which law you are referring to. If you want information on a state law, each state has its Office of Administrative Law and you can contact them for information.

U.S. government agencies also have offices for administrative law. So, for information on a federal administrative law, you can go to the website of that specific government agency office.

By candyquilt — On Feb 06, 2011

If I want to find out about an administration law and if any changes have been made to it recently, where do I go?

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