LAW 421: Administrative Law


Today we live in an administrative state in which hundreds of administrative agencies at the federal and state law wield significant power over our everyday lives. Agencies regulate health care, insurance rates, labor relations, air pollution, elections and so much more. Despite this pervasiveness, the source of an agency's powers and its place in our government is described as "constitutionally ambiguous." Administrative agencies are not safely lodged in any particular branch of government but rather function as a "fourth branch of government " and exercise powers of all three branches of government - adjudication, rulemaking, and executive powers. Administrative law is the body of constitutional, statutory, executive, and common law doctrines that both empower and constrain this fourth branch.

This course does not focus on the substantive law of any particular agency. Rather the class addresses the principles and procedures common to most federal agencies. Topics covered include the tussle between the President, Congress, and the courts over the power exercised by agencies (separation of powers), the procedures according to which agencies exercise their authority (rulemakings and adjudications), the scope of judicial review of agency decisions, constitutional due process constraints on agency decisions and what a plaintiff must do to establish standing to challenge an agency decision.