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Proceedings to Determine Validity of Rules

Administrative agencies make rules according to the procedure prescribed by the legislature.  The legislature delegates rulemaking power to administrative agencies to utilize their expertise in certain matters.

The Model State Administrative Procedure Act of the year 1961 stated that validity and applicability of an administrative rule can be ascertained through  declaratory judgments.  The Model State Administrative Procedure Act was amended in the year 1981.  According to 1981 version of the act, courts can allow relief in the form of declaratory, mandatory, or injunctive; preliminary or final; temporary or permanent; and equitable or legal to claimants.  In all these actions courts can determine the validity of an admiralty rule.

Courts determine validity of a rule at the time when an agency adopts the rule.[i] If a part of the rule is arbitrary and unreasonable then the whole rule need not be held void.  The portion of the rule that is unreasonable can be severed from the whole rule and if the rest of the rule is not unreasonable it can be held valid.[ii]

When a rule is invalidated, some state administrative procedure acts provide the reasonable cost of litigation to party who initiated the case.[iii]

Generally, courts infer that agencies make rules according to the prescribed procedures.[iv] Courts also assume that the agency regulations created are valid and within the bounds of an enabling act.  The party challenging the validity of an agency rule must produce evidence to show that it is an unreasonable rule beyond doubt.  The challenger is supposed to prove that an administrative agency did not follow the rulemaking procedures, the rules created are illegal, arbitrary and unreasonable, the rules created lack support of evidence, and the rulemaking authority acted in an unconstitutional manner exceeding its statutory authority.[v] However, courts when considering the validity of an agency rule should give the benefit of presumption that the created rule abides by all procedures.

Courts do not agree to the rules created by administrative agencies in a perfunctory manner.[vi] The validity of the rules created by an administrative agency is checked through the principles used in statutory interpretation.  When a court finds a rule invalid, the court substitutes the rule with its independent judgment.  A state’s Supreme Court may be the final court to adjudge the validity of an administrative rule.

[i] United States v. Sarmiento, 750 F.2d 1506 (11th Cir. Fla. 1985)

[ii] Scharf v. Recorder’s Court of Ramsey, 137 N.J.L. 231 (Sup. Ct. 1948)

[iii] Gonzales-Blanco v. Clayton, 120 Ill. App. 3d 848 (Ill. App. Ct. 1st Dist. 1983)

[iv] Omaha v. Cutchall, 173 Neb. 452 (Neb. 1962)

[v] New York State Ass’n of Counties v. Axelrod, 78 N.Y.2d 158 (N.Y. 1991)

[vi] Halpin v. Perales, 153 Misc. 2d 932 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 1992)

Inside Proceedings to Determine Validity of Rules