Appeals from administrative agencies are known as judicial review. Judicial review is process by which a court of law decides on the appropriateness of an agency’s action.
Generally, judicial review of administrative actions is favored. However, judicial review of agency actions can be avoided if it is clearly mentioned in a statute.[i] If the legislature’s intent is to preclude judicial review of an agency’s action, and the intent is clear from the language of the statute, judicial review of the agency action is not favored. On the contrary, if the legislature has not created any statute or rules to apply in an issue, and have left the matter solely at the discretion of an agency, there can be no other relief to the claimant.
In most of the states, most agency actions are presumed to be reviewable. However, if there is a statutory prohibition on judicial review, the agency action is based on the agency’s discretion. Some states create statutes that prohibit judicial review in administrative actions.
Even if the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) favors judicial review, when a statute prevents review of an agency action, the APA does not apply. When statutory prohibition on judicial review is not express but implied from the language of the statute, courts can ascertain the extent to which the statute precludes judicial review.[ii] Courts ascertain meaning of the statute by examining the legislative intent while creating the law.[iii] If there is no legislative intent to prevent judicial review in agency actions, an agency can not overrule the provisions of the APA.[iv] If a statute is silent on the matter of judicial review, the basic presumption is in favor of judicial review. The legislature’s intention to avoid judicial review in administrative actions should be clear from the language of the statute.[v]
When a defense to get exempted from the review provisions of the APA is not a jurisdictional defense, it can be waived by the parties to the action.[vi]
Judiciary provides high deference to administrative expertise in agency decisions. If the agency decision is reasonable courts can approve the decision.[vii] The courts ratify administrative decisions unless the decision is in clear conflict with the statute, is against the legislature’s intent, or is not reasonable. However, before approaching courts, parties should have exhausted all administrative remedies.
Courts can entertain matters in which agencies lack jurisdiction, or in which agencies make decisions influenced by fraud or bribery. Courts can also review agency decisions that violate constitutional, statutory, regulatory commands. Judicial review of agency decisions are possible when agency decisions are arbitrary and capricious, or an abuse of discretion, or not in accordance with the law. A decision can be within the authority of an agency but it can be reviewed if the agency fails to state the reasons for its decision.
Even if there is no statute that precludes judicial review, when an agency is provided with wide discretion to decide on certain matters, courts have no power to review the decisions. This exception is applicable only where statutes provide no laws or standards to apply.[viii]
In situations where the legislature has not affirmatively prevented judicial review in agency decisions, judicial review is not available as a remedy when the statute provides that courts will have no meaningful specifications against which agency’s discretionary power can be judged.
Agency decisions that lack enforcement proceedings are not reviewable under the APA. Such decisions are made under agency discretion. Therefore, such decisions are not reviewable because the legislature has not made any intent to limit the discretionary power.
Administrative agencies are provided with power to impose penalties in certain matters. When the penalties imposed are not disproportionate, judicial review is not applicable.[ix] In order to determine the gravity of the penalty imposed, limited judicial review is allowed. Courts can set aside disproportionate sanctions.
Agency fund allocation can not be judicially reviewed because it involves many internal priorities that cannot be determined by the courts. The lump- sum amount legislature grants to administrative agencies carries an implied restriction to apportion the amount according to the legally binding requirements of the agency.[x]
According to APA judicial review of an agency action is not available when the administrative agency is provide wide discretion in the matter. This rule applies to the general grant in the Hobbs Act.[xi]
[i] Block v. Community Nutrition Institute, 467 U.S. 340 (U.S. 1984)
[ii] Calabrese v. Chicago Park Dist., 294 Ill. App. 3d 1055 (Ill. App. Ct. 1st Dist. 1998)
[iii] Dir., Dept of Labor and Indus. Rel. v. Kiewit Pacific Co., 104 Haw. 22 (Haw. Ct. App. 2004)
[iv] Am. Soc’y of Cataract & Refractive Surgery v. Thompson, 279 F.3d 447 (7th Cir. Ill. 2002)
[v] Gregoire v. Rumsfeld, 463 F. Supp. 2d 1209 (W.D. Wash. 2006)
[vi] 5 USCS § 701
[vii] McAlester Fuel Co. v. Carpenter, 2009 Tex. App. LEXIS 1182 (Tex. App. Houston 1st Dist. Feb. 19, 2009)
[viii] Board of License Comm’rs v. Corridor Wine, Inc., 361 Md. 403 (Md. 2000)
[ix] Arthur Murray Studio, Inc. v. FTC, 458 F.2d 622 (5th Cir. 1972)
[x] Hutchins v. National Endowment for the Arts, 1994 U.S. App. LEXIS 29172 (4th Cir. Md. Oct. 19, 1994)
[xi] 28 USCS § 2341