Standards of Review of Agency Actions


The principles upon which judicial review has to be conducted over administrative agency actions are laid down by the Federal Administrative Procedure Act.  These review standards are the primary values upon which a judicial review is conducted unless altered by Congress.  A court reviewing an administrative agency action interprets constitutional and statutory provisions governing the agency action to decide over all relevant questions of law.

An agency action will be set aside or held unlawful if they are arbitrary, unreliable; an abuse of discretion, or contrary to law, constitutional rights, its power and privilege, or immunity.  Similar discretion would be taken by the reviewing court for an agency action in excess of statutory jurisdiction, authority, or limitations, or short of statutory right.  Any action that was brought by the agency without observance of procedure required by law, unsupported by substantial evidence in a case subject to certain provisions of the APA or otherwise reviewed on the record of an agency hearing provided by statute will also be held unlawful by the reviewing court.  Further, an agency action unwarranted by the facts to the extent that the facts are subject to trial de novo by the reviewing court would also be struck down.

Even though no specific standards are prescribed for judicial review of administrative actions among state courts, they closely follow the Federal Administrative Act.

Apart from deciding over the question of jurisdiction, the reviewing court also needs to check if the holding involves a finding of fact or conclusion of law.  Regarding legal questions, the proper standard of review is the substitution of judgment test, whereas in deciding over questions of facts, substantial evidence is taken into consideration.