Administrative law is the body of law that governs the activities of administrative agencies of government. Government agency action can include rule making, adjudication, or the enforcement of a specific regulatory agenda. Administrative law is considered a branch of public law.
Administrative law encompasses laws and legal principles governing the administration and regulation of government agencies (both Federal and state). Such agencies are delegated power by Congress (or in the case of a state agency, the state legislature) to act as agents for the executive. Generally, administrative agencies are created to protect a public interest rather than to vindicate private rights.
People often deal with administrative agencies and administrative law when they apply for government benefits. For example, Congress has passed laws that allow disabled individuals to receive government assistance. The Social Security Administration (SSA) is the administrative agency created to implement Congress’s social security and disability laws. In addition to regulating government benefits like Social Security, administrative agencies also implement federal and state laws affecting almost every industry.
It is important to consider two vital factors in dealing with administrative agencies: 1) the rules and regulations are often special for each agency and are not usually found in the statutes but in those regulations; 2) a member of the public must “exhaust his/her administrative remedies” (take every step, including appeals) with the agency and its system before he/she can challenge the administrative ruling with a lawsuit in court. There are exceptions (such as emergency or obvious futility) to exhausting one’s remedies, but those are rare. Administrative law can be a technical jungle, and many lawyers make lots of money from knowing how to hack their way through it on behalf of their clients.
The Administrative Procedure Act (APA) is the United States federal law that governs the way in which administrative agencies of the federal government of the United States may propose and establish regulations. The APA also sets up a process for the United States federal courts to directly review agency decisions. It is one of the most important pieces of United States administrative law. The Act became law in 1946.