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Record on Review

Generally, the judicial review of an administrative agency decision is limited to the administrative record.  Before making a final decision on an appeal from an administrative agency, a court has to review the entire record and not just portions of the record.[i] Similarly, a court must look into the full record before deciding whether an administrative agency’s findings are supported by substantial evidence.[ii] While reviewing a final decision of an administrative agency under the Administrative Procedure Act, a court will not take judicial notice of an adjudicative fact that was not presented to the agency.  This is because the taking of such evidence can lead to the expansion of the statutory scope of review de novo on the record of the agency.[iii]

A court cannot pass upon issues that are presented to it for the first time on judicial review.  A reviewing court cannot make independent findings of fact, reweigh evidence, or substitute its judgment for that of the administrative agency on questions of fact.  Generally, an agency’s deliberations are not a part of the record and thus are not subject to judicial review.[iv] A record is helpful to allow judicial review of a proceeding that is the subject of a due process challenge.  The reviewing court must be allowed to determine the facts to ensure due process was given.

In an administrative appeal, the burden lies upon the appellant to present an adequate record for review.  When an agency is required to prepare and transmit the record to the reviewing court, the burden of persuasion is on the party challenging the agency’s decision.  However, a failure to transmit the record on time cannot dismiss the petition for judicial review of the administrative agency decision.[v] The Model State Administrative Procedure Act provides supplementation of record by which the court orders to take additional evidence by an agency.

Whereas, under the Federal Administrative Procedure Act, to assess the validity of agency action, a reviewing court must rely upon the administrative record.  If an agency fails to explain a proper rationale of its action, the court can remand for further proceedings.[vi] Accordingly, judicial review of an agency action must be on the administrative record already in existence.  Although the Administrative Procedure Act allows review based on those parts of the record cited by a party, the court must be convinced that the selection of particular portions of the record was the result of mutual agreement between the parties after the complete review of the record.[vii]

An administrative record includes:

  • The order involved;
  • Any findings or report on which it is based;
  • The pleadings, evidence, and other parts of the proceedings before the agency.

[i] Sons & Daughters of Idaho, Inc. v. Idaho Lottery Comm’n, 144 Idaho 23 (Idaho 2007)

[ii] Authentic Home Improvements v. Mayo, 2006 D.C. Super. LEXIS 9 (D.C. Super. Ct. 2006)

[iii] Betterman v. State DMV, 273 Neb. 178 (Neb. 2007)

[iv] Fisher v. Iowa Bd. of Optometry Examiners, 478 N.W.2d 609 (Iowa 1991)

[v] Wormwood v. Batching Sys., 124 Md. App. 695 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 1999)

[vi] Woods Petroleum Corp. v. Department of Interior, 47 F.3d 1032 (10th Cir. Okla. 1995)

[vii] Society Hill Towers Owners’ Ass’n v. Rendell, 20 F. Supp. 2d 855 (E.D. Pa. 1998)

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