Administrative law is one vast body of law that governs the many activities of the various administrative agencies of a certain nation’s government. Considered as a branch of public law, it is made up of statutes and cases containing legal procedures and regulations that basically define the extent of a specific agency’s power and responsibility. In the U.S., the scope of administrative law exists through the various agencies found in all levels of the nation’s government—federal, state, and local (county and/or city). These agencies may differ in names—boards, commissions, departments, and divisions—but their basic roles are to administer and monitor numerous activities in many areas that concern the public, including employment, Social Security, manufacturing, taxation, and the like.
In the U.S., the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the government cannot always perform their constitutional responsibilities, which is why the boards, commissions, and other agencies are created. The nation’s government agencies are organized mostly by the executive branch, headed by the President. Some, however, are part of either the judicial or legislative branches of the U.S. government. Upon their establishment, specialized powers are effectively bestowed unto them, wherein they are responsible for devising legislations like the three government branches, but through the issuance of regulations and rulings. They are fully responsible for the adjudication, legislation, and the enforcement of their establishing rulings and regulations within their specific specialty.
Meanwhile, government agencies in which the U.S. administrative law is applied are usually categorized into two: the federal executive agencies or the independent agencies. The first one is those that basically make up the President’s cabinet and are usually headed by secretaries. The State Department, Department of Justice, Department of Labor, Department of Transportation, and the Department of the Treasury are some of the examples of federal executive agencies. Even the sub-units of these departments are considered as such, like the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which is under the Treasury. The second one is those that exercise independence from the President’s control to some degree. Examples of such that currently exist in the U.S. are the Federal Communication Commission (FCC), Social Security Administration (SSA), National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), among others.
These agencies are governed by the Administrative Procedure Act or APA, which was enacted in 1946. One of the most important statutes within the U.S. administrative law, this statute contains provisions on how these agencies perform their duties and responsibilities, setting certain standards in the proposal and establishment of regulations. It also provides a framework of important procedures for individuals or groups who have problems with any of the agencies and/or their decisions. These procedures give them the opportunity to seek appeals or to file complaints.
In such instances, an expert attorney who specializes in administrative law is usually consulted. Basically, a legal counsel who has extensive knowledge in the practice of this vast branch of law can perform in a myriad of capacities. Apart from their capability to analyze the proposed rules and regulations laid down by the agencies, writing drafts of regulations, and providing legal advice to the members and officials of specific agencies, they are needed when dealing with certain agencies that are responsible for providing aid to certain individuals. For example, when an injured employee files for workers’ compensation but his or her claim was denied, he or she may hire a legal counsel to assist them in their reconsiderations or appeals with a workers’ compensation board. The same way applies to those who have been denied disability benefits by the Social Security Administration, wherein they can contest the decision with the help of the legal counsel.
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