Administrative Law

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 What Is Administrative Law?

Administrative laws are a body of laws that govern the activities of governmental agencies, for example, federal agencies such as the Social Security Administration and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service.

Administrative laws also apply to state and local government agencies including the local liquor control board or motor vehicle administrations who are responsible for issuing licenses and permits.

The activities of government agencies may include:

  • Making rules that are known as policy;
  • Adjudicating disputes through administrative hearings; and
  • Enforcing laws that pertain to their specific administrative area.

If an individual has any issues, questions, or concerns related to administrative law, they can consult with an administrative lawyer.

How Does Administrative Law Differ from Other Legal Areas?

The majority of individuals are familiar with the civil and criminal legal systems in the United States where a court, or a judge, presides over a case between two sides. These two sides are typically the plaintiff or the government versus the defendant.

In these systems, the question typically involves whether a defendant is guilty or liable in some way for the allegation or the complaint may be the plaintiff or government. These cases may involve a wide array of legal areas, including:

  • Crimes;
  • Personal liability;
  • Injunctions;
  • Violations of contract; and
  • Other issues.

In administrative law cases, the agency has a board, commission, or other type of tribunal that adjudicates issues related to the regulatory scheme of the agency is what is referred to as an administrative court. This court is typically composed of experts in the field.

These courts only adjudicate issues within that field by applying the rules and policies of the agency by holding administrative hearings. Although both federal civil courts and federal criminal courts follow the federal rules in compliance with the United State and state constitutions, Congress also enacted the Administrative Procedure Act in order to establish procedures that are in compliance with due process.

It is important to note that administrative laws of state and local governmental agencies may vary. For example, administrative law in South Dakota may differ from the rules in Montana.

What Are Types of Administrative Agencies and Programs?

Government agencies perform 3 main types of services, including:

  • Implementation: When the legislative branch of the government creates a law or policy, there is a coordinating agency charged with implementing that law;
    • For example, when the government passes an environmental law they may use the Environmental Protection Agency to implement the law;
  • Entitlement: An entitlement agency is designed to provide benefits to and guarantee the rights of individuals;
    • An example of an entitlement agency is the Social Security Administration. The Social Security Administration provides retirement and disability benefits to individuals who are entitled to them; and
  • Enforcement: Certain agencies are created to enforce laws;
    • An example of an enforcement agency is the Department of Justice. The Department of Justice investigates violations of the law;
      • It also arrests and charges those who have criminally violated the law.

What Are Some Examples of Administrative Law Cases?

Many individuals interact with the adjudication of administrative laws in 3 common areas. If an individual is required to appear in an administrative court, it is important to remember that these courts follow a different set of rules and procedures than criminal courts and civil courts.

Administrative law examples include, but may not be limited to:

  • Regulatory cases: These cases involve challenging a rule or policy that was created by the agency;
    • For example, business owners as well as interested members of the public may have a conflict with a regulation created by a governmental agency. When this occurs, an interested individual may file a complaint with the agency and appeal the regulation;
      • One example is the Environmental Protection Agency created a new rule that conflicts with an individual’s business;
  • Entitlement cases: Public benefits, for example, disability benefits or workers’ compensation are governed by administrative law;
    • If an individual’s benefits have been denied, they can make an appeal to the appropriate administrative court who can review their case to determine whether the denial was justified; and
  • Enforcement cases: When an individual or entity has violated an agency’s regulation, the agency may bring a case against them in an administrative court;
    • One common example of this is the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service who brings deportation proceedings against individuals who are accused of illegal immigration;
      • An individual who is accused of illegal immigration may face the serious consequence of deportation if the administrative court finds in favor of the agency.

What Is an Administrative Law Hearing?

An administrative law hearing is similar to being in a courtroom for a trial. This type of hearing, however, involves a dispute that is under the authority of a governmental agency.

Administrative hearings establish records of facts in cases moving towards some type of resolution. For example, if an individual appeals an administrative law decision, this type of hearing may be held.

This may be an individual’s first opportunity to speak with the individual or entity that is determining whether or not to accept or reject their claim. It may be helpful to be represented by an administrative law attorney at these hearings.

Who Will Be Considering My Claim?

An administrative law judge is the individual who will be evaluating a claim. There are thousands of these types of judges across the nation.

These judges are required by oath to provide claimants with fair and impartial hearings.

Do You Know if the Hearing Is Held in a Courtroom?

Administrative law hearings do not typically take place in courtrooms because they are more casual. Often, these types of hearings are held in a conference room or other type of meeting room.

What Takes Place at a Hearing?

During a hearing, both sides will be given an opportunity to present their side of the case. For example, if an individual is filing for disability, their hearing may involve:

  • Their level of education;
  • The nature of their job;
  • The seriousness of their illness or injury; and
  • Any other circumstances that may prevent them from working.

These hearings are often short in duration. In addition, these hearings are typically not open.

This means that only the parties and their lawyers, the judge, and the hearing clerk will be at the hearing. If one side requires expert testimony, such as a doctor, the doctor may be present as well.

However, in these hearings, medical records often provide sufficient proof.

What Is the Role of the Hearing Clerk?

Prior to an administrative law hearing starting, the hearing clerk will bring the individual’s file to them and their attorney for inspection. The clerk may review the file with the plaintiff and review hearing procedures if the plaintiff does not have a lawyer.

In addition, the hearing clerk operates any recording devices that are used and takes notes.

Which Clothes Should I Wear to the Hearing?

Although administrative law hearings are considered less formal than a trial, an individual should still do their best to appear tidy and professional. An individual is not required to wear a fancy, expensive suit but only the best they are able.

Can I Appeal an Administrative Decision?

There are many agencies that have an appeal process within the agency. In certain rare situations, an appeal may be made to the United States Court of Appeals, depending on the nature of the case.

How Can an Administrative Law Attorney Assist Me?

If you have any issues, questions, or concerns related to an administrative law issue, it is important to consult with a government lawyer. An administrative law lawyer will be familiar with the rules and practices of the administrative court.

A lawyer can help you understand the rules, prepare your case, and represent you at an administrative court proceeding. Your attorney may be able to represent you free of charge in certain appeal situations, such as the denial of social security benefits, as the government may pay the lawyer’s fees if your appeal is successful.


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