Administrative Law Research Paper

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Administrative law is a branch of public law that includes the laws and legal principles pertaining to the administration and regulation of state agencies, ministries, or departments and the relationship of the state with private individuals. It is a product of the need for a state to perform a multitude of functions for its citizens and deals with the decision making of a state agency in relation to its regulatory framework. Such regulatory frameworks perform a variety of state functions including natural resource protection, transportation regulation, and food and health safety regulations. Because all administrative law systems are not the same it is imperative for an individual to have knowledge of the political, historical, social, and economic context of the system of a particular state to fully understand its administrative law. In most systems a state’s constitution or fundamental law is inextricably linked to its administrative law system and must be considered in light of the system or tradition under consideration.

All but the most oppressive administrative law systems share at least one or more of the following interests: (1) providing justice for injuries inflicted by state personnel and agencies on private citizens; (2) maintaining the legality and propriety of subordinate state agencies and actors; and (3) remedying injuries to bureaucrats by the state. Common law administrative law scholars in the United Kingdom and the United States look to the Conseil d’Etat in France because, at one time, French administrative law dominated continental systems. Not all administrative law systems conform, however, to this pattern. At least four other divergent themes have all been noted by H. B. Jacobini in An Introduction to Comparative Administrative Law (1991): “(1) the Sinitic Censorate and its derivatives, (2) the Procuracy and other administrative law procedures as found in the communist world, (3) the concept of the ombudsman, and (4) machinery for registering complaints” (p. 12).

The fundamental elements of administrative law in the United States that are similar to many European and other nations include: (1) statutory delegation of powers from an elected legislative body to the executive; (2) an administrative agency that derives its authority from the legislative body, and that implements the relevant law through rulemaking, adjudication, or other forms of administrative process; (3) judicial review by an independent judiciary of the administrative body’s actions for compliance with the statutory delegation of powers by the legislative body and other applicable laws; and (4) transparency of the decisional process.

For example, in the United States, administrative agencies are said to have no inherent powers because they must act pursuant to the legal authority delegated to them by the legislative body. The legislative body empowers administrative agencies to act as agents for the executive branch of government through statutory law. The statute that delegates power to an administrative agency sets forth the scope of the agency’s authority. Thus, the nature of administrative law is subconstitutional in the United States because the powers of administrative agencies are delegated through statutory law, not through constitutional law. Yet the actions of the administrative agency must ultimately comply with the U.S. Constitution, its fundamental law. In contrast the German Constitution, the Grundgesetz, contains provisions specifically relevant to the development of its administrative law system.

Administrative agencies in the United States typically utilize adjudication, rulemaking, and inspection to execute their statutory authority. Adjudication can be either informal or formal and must comport to the U.S. Constitution’s due process clause. Rulemaking can also be informal or formal. In addition, the power of inspection is sometimes used as a substitute for adjudication procedures or to determine whether not the existence of certain conditions warrant further administrative action. One example of an administrative agency is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), whose mission is to protect human health and the environment.

In many countries the courts play a large part in the development of administrative law. In the United States the power of judicial review allows courts to determine whether or not the actions of administrative agencies exceed the scope of their delegated authority or violate the Constitution. Similar processes of review are found in other countries and, although the legal standards vary, their roles are quite similar. For example, in France the Conseil d’Etat has developed general principles for administrative law. In the United Kingdom, the ordinary courts are competent in administrative law and, generally, this area is subject to common law. There, the Queens Bench of the High Court is more administrative than the ordinary court when it deals with applications of judicial review.


  1. Jacobini, H. B. 1991. An Introduction to Comparative Administrative Law. New York: Oceana Publications.
  2. Seerden, René, and Frits Stroink, eds. 2002. Administrative Law of the European Union, Its Member States and the United States: A Comparative Analysis. Antwerpen: Intersentia.
  3. Strauss, Peter L. 2006. Administrative Justice in the United States. 2nd ed. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press.

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