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Relation of Administrative Process to Legal Process

Administrative law is a body of law that controls administrative activities of government agencies. An administrative agency is a permanent or semi-permanent branch of the government that is responsible for management and administration of specific functions.

An administrative agency is not a part of the U.S.judicial system.  Courts and administrative agencies are separately created.  Their functions also differ.  Statutes have delegated administrative agencies executive power to administer legislative authority.  The primary function of administrative agencies is to exercise the executive power delegated to them by statute.

Any administrative scheme should guarantee rational process flow through which results are determined.  In Harrison v. Ginsberg, 169 W. Va. 162 (W. Va. 1982) it was observed that every final judgment provided by agency in a case shall be in writing or stated in record, and shall be accompanied by well reasoned fact findings and conclusions of law.

The administrative system substitutes administrative agencies for courts in making many decisions in the federal agencies.  Such administrative agencies also determine definition of individual rights in administrative systems.  In Benedict v. Bd. of Police Pension Fund Comm’Rs, 35 Wn.2d 465 (Wash. 1950), a police officer’s 12-year-old son found the officer’s gun and pointed it at him while the officer was sitting at his kitchen table.  On seeing his wife’s face, the officer turned around when his son discharged the gun, and killed him.  The officer’s widow filed an application for a pension.  The Board denied the application on ground that husband was not actually engaged in performance of his duties as a police officer when he was shot. The officer’s widow requested an appeal to the court from the board.  The court observed that in determining a question the board should have considered all available information and facts.  The board was not limited to the widow’s testimony, but could consider the entire record and draw conclusions from all the evidence before it.  The court concluded that the officer was performing his duty as a police officer in preventing his son from firing, and hence, his widow was eligible for pension.

Generally, administrative procedures are simple, less methodical, and less technical than judicial procedure.  Such proceedings, however, are bound by basic evidentiary limits[i].  However, strict rules of evidence do not apply to administrative proceedings.

According to the Seventh Amendment of the US Constitution, in lawsuits where  the value in controversy exceeds 20 dollars, parties are entitled to demand a jury trial in an action for damages[ii].  However, the right preserved by the Seventh Amendment is not applicable in administrative proceedings.

[1] Ruffin v. Clinton, 849 S.W.2d 108 (Mo. Ct. App. 1993)

[2] Curtis v. Loether, 415 U.S. 189 (U.S. 1974)

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