Law Quadrangle (formerly Law Quad Notes)


The community of administrative law teachers and scholars seems to be in perpetual doubt over how "administrative law" should be approached as a branch of legal doctrine, and, indeed, whether the subject exists at all. At its core, "administrative law" is a collection of abstract, even pithy, principles that purport to describe and predict the bases on which judges review agency action. For example, agency decisions are to be supported by "substantial evidence" or are not to be "abitrary and capricious" and are to have "a reasonable basis in law"; agencies must accord "due process" when they inflict deprivations of life, liberty, or property, and so on. Any experienced lawyer knows, however, that the actual content of these principles cannot be comprehended except by observing how they are applied to particular actions by particular agencies. Administrative law can only be understood in its native disorderly profusion; doctrinal synthesis and rationalization, the mainstays of traditional legal scholarship, may be not only futile in this area but actually misleading, an observation that has led observers to question whether there really is an encompassing subject known as "administrative law."