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Understanding Administrative Law

“In the broadest sense, administrative law involves the study of how those parts of our system of government that are neither legislatures nor courts make decisions. These entities, referred to as administrative agencies, are normally located in the executive branch of government and are usually charged with the day–to–day details of governing. Agencies are created and assigned specific tasks by the legislature. The agencies carry out these tasks by making decisions of various sorts and supervising the procedures by which the decisions are carried out. For example, Congress has charged the federal Social Security Administration (SSA) with the administration of the nation’s social security program. Under that mandate, SSA does two things: (1) it makes general social security policy (within the terms of the statute, of course) and (2) it processes individual applications for, and terminations of, social security benefits. Affected persons who disagree with the agency’s decisions on either the substance of the social security program or the procedures under which that program is implemented—and whose grievances are not resolved within the agency—are permitted to take their dispute into federal court for resolution. Occasionally, aggrieved persons return to the legislative branch in an attempt to persuade Congress to alter the statute under which the social security program functions.
This brief outline is the basic model for the American administrative process; and whether you are studying federal administrative law, a state administrative system, or even a single administrative agency, the process of decision–making is likely to be similar, even when the missions of the agencies differ. It is the unifying force of the administrative process—in dramatic contrast to the wide variety of substantive problems with which agencies deal—that has persuaded most administrative law professors to concentrate on agency procedure rather than agency substance. Accordingly, most contemporary administrative law courses analyze the manner in which matters move through an agency, rather than the wisdom of the matters themselves. In other words, the manner in which the federal Department of Transportation decided to impose a passive–restraint system on automobile manufacturers is a fascinating case history of the administrative process, irrespective of anyone’s personal position on the wisdom of air bags versus seat belts. Recognizing that the focus of most administrative law courses is on how decisions are made (rather than what those decisions are) should help you more readily understand the themes of the typical course in administrative law.” Understanding Administrative Law.
Understanding Administrative Law is designed to help the reader grasp the fundamental concepts of administrative law. The treatise concentrates on the process of administrative decisionmaking but also deals with the substantive law of agencies when appropriate. A good deal of the material in this book consists of recommendations and processes to identify administrative problems and mechanisms for organizing a reader’s thinking when the problem is identified. Understanding Administrative Law highlights the manner in which a client’s problem moves through the typical agency and the manner in which a lawyer copes with the various problems and issues encountered in representing clients before administrative agencies. In addition, this book contains a significant amount of material on trends in administrative law such as deregulation and regulatory reform. The Fifth Edition includes comprehensive references to recent cases and law review articles for readers who wish additional depth in any of the topics covered.
Click the link below for a free pdf download of Chapter 1 of the treatise.