State Courts

A state court, in reviewing an agency decision, should look through the entire records of agency action.  A state court may overturn an agency action if the action:

  • violates statutory or constitutional provisions;
  • exceeds the agency’s statutory authority;
  • is made upon unlawful procedure;
  • is not supported by substantial evidence in the record; or
  • is arbitrary, capricious or an abuse of discretion.[i]

Moreover, the state court should detect from the records the facts leading to an administrative action and the law applied for making such action.  However, discussions in contested proceedings are not considered part of records.

The general rule is that a court’s review of an agency action is confined to records made before the administrative agency.  In exercising the power of review, courts shall not rely on such evidence, which are produced before the court for the first time, although the records would have been part of the agency’s final decision.  Courts will not also rely on improper evidence.

The standard of an informal administrative decision is whether the decision was arbitrary, capricious, or unlawful.  It was appropriate for the Court, in applying that standard to accept new evidence and not to limit its review to the administrative record. In a proceeding to determine whether an agency decision was arbitrary, capricious, or unlawful, the reviewing court must look beyond the record to determine what matters the agency should have considered.  Otherwise it will be impossible for the court to determine whether the agency took into consideration all relevant factors in reaching its decision.[ii]

The burden to produce adequate records for review is upon the party challenging an agency decision.  However, courts cannot dismiss a motion for failure to transmit record timely when there is substantial compliance with the rule and no prejudice is caused.  Since the failure to produce timely records is a procedural rule violation, the petition for review should not be dismissed.  Where the record of an administrative proceeding has been timely submitted to the court, with an unintentionally erroneous or omitted case number, in the absence of prejudice to the party appealing the administrative action, such submission does not constitute a failure of certification.  The party making motion shall take the cost for preparing transcript for inclusion within the record.  Requirements regarding transmittal, contents, and assessment of costs of sending the agency’s record to the reviewing court are provided in the model state administrative procedure acts.[iii]

By ordering additional evidence, court supplements administrative records.  Courts may also permit subsequent corrections and additions to records.  A court may order an agency to take additional evidence upon such conditions as the court deems proper; however, the court is not obligated to order additional evidence.

[i] Feasel v. Idaho Transp. Dep’t (In re Driver’s License Suspension of Feasel), 222 P.3d 480 (Idaho Ct. App. 2009)

[ii] J.M. Huber Corp. v. Gallatin County, 2003 ML 1637, 7 (Mont. Dist. Ct. 2003)

[iii] Model State Administrative Procedure Act (1961 ed) § 15(d); Model State Administrative Procedure Act (1981 ed) § 5-115.


Inside State Courts