Federal Administrative Law

This guide gives a brief introduction on how to locate and use sources of federal administrative law.


Federal administrative law consists of rules, regulations and standards created by executive and administrative agencies.  The ability of an agency to propose rules and regulations is delegated by statute or executive action.  There is considerable similarity in the procedure of both state and federal regualatory rulemaking as they are both governed by a model act called the Administrative Procedure Act.  

Federal regulatory law governs a wide array of topics and impacts the lives of ordinary citizens on a daily basis.  Law students are well-advised to learn the administrative process and understand how administrative law impacts their clients and legal practice.

Administrative Procedure Act

The Administrative Procedure Act, codified at 5 U.S.C. § 500 (enacted as Pub. L. 79-404, 60 Stat. 237), establishes the process for how administrative agencies propose rules and regulations.  It provides the mechanism by which agencies, and regulated parties, can resolve disputes via adjudication and enable public participation in the regulatory process.  It ensures that citizens are given sufficient due process when impacted by regulatory activity and gives a degree of accountability for administrative agencies.  There is a very similar model act which governs state regulatory activity that has been widely adopted, including by California.

The act is broken down into the following sections (all links point to the statutory text):

  • § 551 Definitions
  • § 552 Public information; agency rules, opinions, orders, records, and proceedings
  • § 552a Records maintained on individuals
  • § 552b Open meetings
  • § 553 Rule making
  • § 554 Adjudications
  • § 555 Ancillary matters
  • § 556 Hearings; presiding employees; powers and duties; burden of proof; evidence; record as basis of decision
  • § 557 Initial decisions; conclusiveness; review by agency; submissions by parties; contents of decisions; record
  • § 558 Imposition of sanctions; determination of applications for licenses; suspension, revocation, and expiration of licenses
  • § 559 Effect on other laws; effect of subsequent statute

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Heafey Law Library Research Team