Implied and Inherent Powers

Administrative agencies are official governmental bodies empowered by the legislature with the authority to direct and supervise the implementation of certain legislative acts.

Administrative agencies are creations of legislatures with no inherent authorities of their own[1].  Also, custom or usage does not invest administrative agencies with authority.  Administrative agencies derive their powers from the U.S. constitution, statutes, and some other legislative enactment.

Statutes delegate powers to agencies because legislatures cannot predict all circumstances that must be considered to achieve the legislative purpose.  However, statutes that confer powers on administrative agencies unavoidably contain generalities, gaps, and ambiguities.  Mostly, an agency’s power to act often depends on specific applications in the statutes for which gaps must be filled and ambiguities resolved.  Generally, in addition to the express powers conferred by legislature, the agencies have whatever implied powers or incidental powers that are reasonably necessary to effectuate these express powers.

The implied power that administrative agencies possess is not unlimited[2].  Administrative agencies’ exercise of unlimited inherent authority is subject to judicial review.

However, administrative agencies have an inherent right to amend their records.  When records are incorrect, they can be corrected.  Similarly, typographical or clerical errors can be corrected at any time.

Different state courts have provided different opinions regarding administrative agencies’ implied powers.  Some courts are of the opinion that wide latitude must be given to administrative agencies for fulfilling their duties.  These courts provide that to carry out a delegated power an administrative agency’s implied power is not compulsory.  In their opinion the implied power need only be an appropriate power to effectuate the delegated duties.  Certain other courts state that administrative agencies should not be provided with implied powers beyond what is necessary for just and reasonable execution of duties delegated to them.  In Clancy’s Lawn Care & Landscaping v. Mississippi State Bd. of Contrs. 707 So. 2d 1080, 1083 (Miss. 1997) the court held that if an administrative agency exercises power not evidently granted by the legislature or can not be necessarily implied from statutes granting power to the agency, then the agency’s decision is not valid.  In the case the court interpreted ‘necessarily implied’ as ‘a logical necessity’.  This means that no other interpretation can be construed from the words of the statute other than what is logically permitted.

[1]Department of Economic & Employment Dev. v. Lilley, 106 Md. App. 744 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 1995)

[2] Playmates Toys v. Director, Division of Taxation, 162 N.J. 186 (N.J. 1999)


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