Simply put, administrative law is a branch of law that governs both the operation and creation of administrative agencies. Administrative law is a division of American public law and dictates the actions of governmental administrative agencies. Some examples of such agency actions can include, but may not be limited to:

  • Creating rules;
  • Providing arbitration;
  • Enforcing specific regulatory agendas; and
  • Various other procedures as necessitated by each individual agency.

Administrative law covers laws and other legal principles at both the Federal and state levels. Administrative agencies get their power from the federal legislature, or in the case of state created agencies, the state legislature. When an agency is created, new laws are created with it, and the agency is formed with the power to interpret and enforce the new laws that fall under the umbrella of that agency.

The agencies governed by administrative law are generally intended to protect a specific public interest as opposed to private rights. Some examples of agencies governed by administrative law include, but may not be limited to:

  • The Department of Justice (the “DOJ”): Also known as the “Justice Department,” the DOJ is a federal executive department agency tasked with the enforcement of federal law in the US;
  • The Department of Defense (“DOD”): The DOD is the largest governmental agency. The DOD is responsible in overseeing the functions of the government related to national security, and the United States military;
  • The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”): The FTC is the federal governmental agency responsible for the enforcement of civil antitrust law, and protecting United States consumers;
  • The Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”): The SEC was created after the collapse of wall street and the stock market in 1929, and is the governmental agency responsible for protecting investors and the national banking system;
  • The Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”): The FDA is a federal agency of the Department of Health and Human Services responsible for protecting and promoting the public health through the supervision of food, tobacco, and medicine;
  • The Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”): The EPA is a federal governmental agency responsible for protecting the environment which has gained more regulatory authority with the passing of environmental protection acts such as the Clean Air Act of 1963; and
  • Other agencies that are independent from being directly controlled by the U.S. President.

As can be seen, there are numerous federal agencies that perform administrative law in the United States. Once again, these agencies were granted their powers through acts of the legislature, and the executive branch of the federal government. As the landscape of the federal government and United States change, so do the operations of the federal agencies and administrative law.

For example, one of the newest federal agencies is the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (“CISA”), which is a standalone federal agency established in November 2018 under the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”), that is responsible for the protection and enhancement of cybersecurity and communications infrastructure of the United States.

How Does Administrative Law Compare to Other Legal Practice Areas?

The American justice system is generally thought of as being either civil or criminal. In both cases, typically a judge hears a case between either a plaintiff or the government, versus a defendant.

Under criminal law, the government brings a case against a defendant. Consequences can include jail or prison sentencing. The criminal justice system addresses cases that the government and law enforcement bring against accused individuals. As such, the government has the burden of proof.

The civil court system differs in that it is generally two individuals taking legal action against each other, such as one person filing a lawsuit against another. Civil cases generally involve a dispute that can be resolved through financial or property compensation penalties. In civil cases, the burden of proof is considerably lighter when compared to criminal cases.

Under these two systems, arbitration is generally used to determine whether the defendant is guilty or somehow liable for the complaint being made by either the plaintiff or government. Under administrative law, each agency has a board, commission, or some other forum. They hear issues associated with how that specific agency is regulated through an administrative court, generally made up of experts in that specific field. These experts only judge matters within that field, and they accomplish this by applying that agency’s rules and policies to the issue at hand.

Although both federal civil and criminal courts adhere to federal rules that comply with the U.S. and state constitutions, the Administrative Procedure Act was passed in order to establish procedures that comply with due process. This is because administrative agencies are often criticized as being unconstitutional, due to the fact that delegating law-making power is considered to be unconstitutional.

What Are Some Examples of Administrative Law Cases?

The many different types of administrative law cases can be categorized into three overall groups:

  1. Regulatory Cases: Regulatory cases involve challenging a rule or policy set forth by the agency. These cases commonly occur when business owners, as well as the interested general public, have an issue with a regulation created by a specific governmental agency. The interested party would file a complaint with the agency in question, and appeal their regulation;
  2. Entitlement Cases: Entitlement cases refer to cases involving public benefits. An example of this would be disability benefits, which are governed by administrative law. If disability benefits were denied, the applicant would make an appeal to the appropriate administrative court. The court would review the case in order to determine whether the denial of benefits was actually justified; and
  3. Enforcement Cases: Enforcement cases generally involve a person or entity violating an agency’s regulation. The agency in question may bring a case against them in the agency’s administrative court. The most common example of an enforcement case would be when the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services brings deportation proceedings against someone they believe to be guilty of “illegal” immigration.

Can North Dakota Administrative Decisions Be Appealed?

Generally speaking, the majority of administrative agencies have an appeal process in place within the agency. As such, it is considerably rare for an appeal to be made to the U.S. Court of Appeals. It is largely dependent on the nature of each specific case, as well as varying state statute.

It is important to note that the North Dakota Administrative Procedure Act is the law that governs the procedures for state administrative agencies to propose and issue regulations, as well as the law that provides for judicial review of agency adjudications and other final administrative decisions.

As mentioned above, the appeals process for appealing an administrative decision is largely dependent on the rules of that agency. Therefore, it is important to look at the state statutes that created the agency and gave them power, along with the specific rules of the agency in order to determine the process for appealing the administrative decision.

Typically, an appeal will have to be made in writing and filed with the clerk’s office of the district court where the facts of the matter occurred. However, some agencies provide a more informal appeal process, prior to filing a formal appeal with the district court.

Additionally, often a district court will follow the doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies, which is a doctrine that says a person wishing to challenge an agency’s decision must have first exhausted all of the available options and remedies with the agency, prior to filing a formal appeal in district court for judicial review. This doctrine was established to promote an efficient justice system, and allow the administrative state agencies to be more autonomous.

How Can a North Dakota Administrative Lawyer Assist Me?

As can be seen, there are both federal and state agencies in North Dakota that are responsible for the regulation and enforcement of certain governmental functions. Therefore, if you have a legal issue that involves either a state or federal agency, it is in your best interests to consult with an experienced local North Dakota government attorney in your area.

An experienced government attorney will be able to assist you throughout the entire administrative law process with your legal issue. Further, if the administrative action is unsatisfactory, then a government attorney will be able to assist you in filing a private legal action, or appealing the administrative decision in a court near you.