What Is Administrative Law?
Within the context of American governance, administrative law is broadly defined as an array of legal provisions embedded within the U.S. Constitution plus some legal statutes, presidential executive orders, applicable court decisions, and official federal agency-level bureaucratic rules and directives. Collectively, these provisions (a) orchestrate the overall scope and define the proper regulatory procedures and administrative instructions within a given agency, (b) spell out exactly how legally-binding policies should be formally drafted, adopted, adjudicated, and enforced, and (c) provide a repeatable formalized structure that dictates the extent to which the agency’s administrative activities are made transparent to the public-at-large for review and public scrutiny.
It is important to be mindful of how the Founding Fathers purposefully framed the U.S. Constitution in such a way that a certain degree of organizational tension would continuously exist between the three separate, but equal, branches of the federal government: the executive, the legislative, and the judicial branches. Below these three distinct branches of government is an administrative bureaucracy of civil servants/public administrators who serve in a supporting role, implementing the daily administrative processes that make transactional governmental functions work—all in accordance with administrative laws, statutes, policies, and directives of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. In short, administrative law serves as the organizational ‘glue’ that provides a certain degree of administrative structure and process rigidity to modern government structures at the federal, state, and local levels.
Be sure to review this week’s resources carefully. You are expected to apply the information from these resources when you prepare your assignments.
This week’s readings outline the ongoing evolution of federal-level American Administrative Law. Select any one of the 430 federal departments, agencies, or sub-agencies listed in the Index provided in this week’s resources. Once you have selected a specific federal department or agency that interests you for further study, review the history of that particular organization.
Prepare a written evaluation of the following:
Conduct research to determine when the agency was established and its original purpose, and how the organization’s primary role(s) has changed over time in terms of overall operational scope, number of assigned personnel, and annual operating budget increases to the responsibilities it performs today.
Identify the organization’s current senior leaders (secretary and undersecretary if a cabinet-level department or the director and deputy director if an agency).
Offer a critical assessment of a high profile or controversial administrative policy/procedure this agency has been responsible for supporting over the past 3 to 5 years.
Develop a brief summary of the particulars of this specific issue/policy and the degree of implementation discretion (if any) that existed. Then, explain how the situation was ultimately resolved (or the current status of this particular policy/procedure if litigation and/or legislative action is still pending).
What Is Administrative Law?