Administrative law is generally defined as the primary source of rules and principles that govern administrative agencies in the United States. In particular, administrative law focuses on how administrative agencies execute their duties and how the results of their actions will be reviewed by Congress, the President, and the Courts. This type of law also applies to administrative agencies operating at both state and local tiers of government.

Administrative law ensures that all agency rules and procedures apply to issues in a uniform manner. Some activities that assist with this mission include permitting agencies to make rules that become policies in certain areas of the law, allowing agencies to adjudicate specific matters in the form of administrative hearings, and granting agencies the authority to enforce regulations that fall under their area of administration.

In addition, administrative law provides important economic and social welfare benefits to society, as well as gives individual citizens a chance to weigh in on certain governmental affairs. 

Some examples of federal administrative agencies include the U.S. Federal Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”), the Department of Justice (“DOJ”), the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (“OSHA”), and the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”)

As for examples of administrative agencies at a state or local level of government, these might include your local liquor license board, the department of motor vehicles in a particular state, and a state agency that handles health and safety conditions in the workplace similar to OSHA.

Thus, while individuals do not typically seek out information on this area of the law to resolve legal issues in the way that they might for personal injury lawsuits, disputes over business contracts, or criminal law violations, administrative law is nevertheless important because it helps to protect the interests of the general public.

How Does Administrative Law Compare to Other Areas of Law?

Most people are generally familiar with types of cases that involve a civil or criminal court. As a brief refresher, a civil court is where an individual may file a private lawsuit against another party for damages. In contrast, a person will only need to appear in criminal court if the federal or a state government formally charges them with a crime.

Accordingly, if it is a civil law matter, then the plaintiff will need to prove to the court that the other party caused them to suffer some type of physical harm or loss. On the other hand, if it is a criminal law matter, then the government or state will need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the charges.

Then there is the field of administrative law — an area of law that is not so well-known by most people. When a case involves an administrative legal issue, an individual or entity will need to appear in front of the relevant agency’s tribunal or board, which may also be referred to as an administrative law court. 

Administrative courts normally consist of members who are experts in the agency’s particular area of enforcement and thus only adjudicate issues that pertain to that field by applying the rules and/or policies created by the agency.

Another important difference between administrative law and standard civil or criminal law is that administrative agencies are required to comply with a separate body of procedural rules. Congress specifically enacted the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA)” so that administrative agencies could establish and issue rules while still complying with procedures that correspond with due process.

A simpler way to understand the APA is to imagine that it serves as a blueprint for administrative agencies to follow, similar to the way that the U.S. Constitution provides instructions to government authorities when dealing with criminal matters.

What are a Few Examples of Administrative Law Cases?

As previously mentioned, administrative law cases follow their own sets of rules. Legal issues will not be resolved through a civil or criminal court system, but rather by an informal or formal adjudication proceeding. 

When a claim or dispute involves a particular agency and thus requires attending an adjudication proceeding, an administrative law judge will be appointed to issue a decision on the matter. It should be noted, however, that there are different kinds of administrative law cases and each type will have separate requirements.

Some examples of administrative law cases include the following:

  • Public benefits cases: Public benefits, such as workers’ compensation and disability benefits, are governed by various administrative laws. If an agency has denied an individual specific public benefits, then that individual may appeal the agency’s decision by filing a claim in the corresponding administrative law court. An administrative law judge will then be appointed to review the case and to determine whether the agency’s denial was based on justifiable grounds.

    • For instance, in 1970, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision that individuals receiving welfare benefits from the government were entitled to an evidentiary hearing in accordance with due process before their benefits could be terminated.
  • Enforcement cases: Enforcement cases are somewhat comparable to those of criminal cases in that it permits an agency to bring a case against an entity or individual who has violated an agency regulation. 

    • For instance, if a non-U.S. citizen fails to comply with U.S. immigration laws, then the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) agency may initiate removal proceedings against them in an administrative law court. If the court finds that a non-U.S. citizen is in violation of the relevant laws, then it may permit the USCIS to remove them from the country.
  • Regulatory cases: A business owner and/or other interested members of the general public may challenge a rule or policy issued by an agency that creates a negative impact. A famous example of a regulatory case involved a claim brought by the American Trucking Association against the EPA. Specifically, the Association and other private companies challenged part of a law that permitted the EPA to set air quality standards on the grounds that the delegation of such powers was unconstitutional. 

Can Administrative Decisions Be Appealed in South Dakota?

Once an administrative agency in South Dakota issues a decision, an affected individual or group of persons will only have a period of seven to fifteen days to challenge the decision before it goes into effect. This time frame may change depending on the type of administrative issue or decision being appealed.

If the interested party is able to file an appeal before the specified time period expires, then the administrative court may issue a temporary stay on the decision until a hearing can be held on whether the appeal will be accepted or not. There are some exceptions to time constraints, such as if an individual can demonstrate that they have good cause for filing a late appeal.

Again, while this will largely be contingent on the administrative issue at hand, the individual or group will either receive a Notice of Hearing. This tells them the time and date of their next administrative proceeding or may be denied an appeal altogether.

How Can a South Dakota Administrative Law Attorney Assist Me?

In most instances, an administrative law attorney is typically hired to represent or provide guidance to a particular administrative agency. However, there are some cases where an individual or a group of individuals may want to file a claim against an administrative agency or challenge one of its rules. In the latter case, it is usually a good idea to consult with an administrative law attorney who is already familiar with such laws and procedures.

Thus, if you wish to challenge a rule or a decision of an administrative agency in South Dakota, it is strongly recommended that you retain a South Dakota administrative law attorney for further legal advice. An experienced administrative law attorney will be able to explain how administrative court proceedings work and can help you understand the rules or policies of a specific state agency. 

Your lawyer can also ensure that you are not deprived of your constitutional rights as well as can provide representation if you are summoned to appear before an administrative law judge. Additionally, you should also retain an administrative law attorney if newly passed legislation is interfering with your business in South Dakota. What is “Administrative Law”?