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Types of Administrative Agency Action: Rulemaking, Adjudication, Investigation

Administrative agencies created by the U.S. Constitution, Congress, state legislatures, and local lawmaking bodies manage contingencies, redress serious social problems, and manage complex matters of governmental concern.

Administrative agency actions can be categorized as one of three types:

1.  Rulemaking
Administrative agencies use rulemaking process to create, or proclaim regulations.  Generally, legislature makes laws based on the policy mandates of the government.  However, legislatures frequently find areas where it is impractical for lawmakers to apply a level of detail or expertise required to constitute complete standards.  Then the legislatures delegate rulemaking function to administrative agencies.  Agencies create detailed regulations through rulemaking.Purposes of rulemaking are to add scientific expertise, implementation details, and industry expertise.  When administrative agencies make rules they are to be made flexible, because new data and technology that influence the rules emerge frequently.Administrative agencies’ rulemaking power is subject to judicial review.  Hence the agencies actions should be in accordance with its enabling statutes.

2 .  Adjudication
Administrative adjudication is exercise of judicial powers by an administrative agency.  Legislative body delegates judicial powers to the agency.  Generally, administrative agencies deal with disputes between individuals and government in terms of benefits sought or disabilities incurred from the government action.Agency adjudication is broken down into formal and informal adjudication.  Formal adjudication involves a trial-like hearing with witness testimony, a written record and a final decision.  However under informal adjudication, decisions are made using inspections, conferences and negotiations.
Administrative law judge makes a decision based on reasoned analysis, written findings of fact, and conclusions of law.  This decision is subject to appeal to the highest administrative authority of the agency.  Administrative fact findings are binding on courts unless not supported by substantial evidence.  Generally, judicial review of formal agency adjudication is limited to questions of law.

3.  Investigation
Administrative agencies have power to conduct investigations. Congress may empower administrative agencies to obtain information on activities which can be regulated by federal legislation.  Such legislative delegation of investigative power to administrative agencies is constitutional.Investigations by administrative agencies are proceedings to obtain information to govern future action.  In such proceedings, action is not taken against anyone.  Usually, the form of investigation depends on the nature of question to be decided.  Investigations are held in private so that harmful publicity will not influence the final outcome.
Administrative agency can issue subpoena requiring a witness to appear and to testify, and also to produce any books, papers, or other documents relevant to the investigation.  An administrative agency is not bound to conduct an investigation under strict rules of evidence required for courts, but generally, basic rules of evidence is followed.  Although hearings can be held, it does not form an integral part of investigation.

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