Administrative agencies can either be agents of the executive or independent agencies. Administrative agencies cannot be considered courts but can act as quasi-judicial bodies when the statute permits. The Administrative Procedures Act of 1946 (APA)[i] sets standards for the quasi-judicial power of the administrative agencies. The APA also provides authority to Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) in exercising the decision making power. This quasi-judicial power of the administrative agencies encourages quick decision makings in relatively minor or exceedingly complex disputes.
The decisions of administrative agencies can be reviewed by the state or federal courts if the administrative agency does not comply with the required due processes, if the parties involved are not given the opportunity for full and fair hearing or, if there is any abuse of discretion. But before suing in civil court, the parties must exhaust all appeals within the agency.
Courts will also determine if the administrative agency exceeded its law making or judicial power and for this purpose the court will examine the agency’s records. This type of accurate reviewing by the courts tends to eliminate the flexibility of the administrative agencies in resolving disputes. Therefore to avoid this difficulty, most of the statutes are worded unclearly so as to enable the administrative agencies to exercise wide discretion in decision making. In Delta Found. v. United States, 303 F.3d 551, 560 (5th Cir. Miss. 2002), the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held that there are wide differences between administrative agencies and courts and so it is difficult to determine if they can be compared to the relation between upper and lower courts.
[i] 5 U.S.C.A. § 551