Skip to Main Content

Administrative Law Research: Home

Administrative Law Study Guides

What is administrative law?

The body of law created by administrative agencies in the forms of rules, regulations and orders, decisions to carry out regulatory powers and duties of such agencies

- Black’s Law Dictionary


Administrative Law most often takes the form of rules or regulations, but it can also consist of other administrative actions such as decisions or orders.  Although agencies are considered part of the executive branch, the duties that agencies perform are similar to the functions that we associate with all 3 branches of government.

  • Agencies act in a legislative-type of capacity when they promulgate new regulations.
  • Agencies act in a judicial-type of capacity when they conduct hearings and issue rulings or decisions on specific matters.
  • Agencies act in an executive-type of capacity when they take on an enforcement role such as investigating and prosecuting violators of regulations.

Where do agencies get their authority?

If agencies have the power to act like all 3 branches of government, where does this power come from?

Delegation Doctrine

The U.S. Constitution vests all legislative powers with the Congress, but also says that Congress can make whatever laws are necessary to execute those powers.  Congress uses its delegation authority to authorize administrative agencies to assist in the execution of the law. 


Limits on Agency Power

Congress has ensured that the powers it has delegated to administrative agencies is not unlimited.  Federal agencies receive their grants of authority through what is known as an “enabling statute” passed by the Congress.  An enabling statute can create an agency and specify exactly what powers Congress is delegating to that agency.  Agency actions can never exceed the scope of their original grant of authority from Congress. 


Congress also limits agency powers through the Administrative Procedure Act (5 USC 551 et seq). The APA lays out the rules that agencies must follow when drafting new regulations and in their adjudications and hearings.  

Request a Research Appointment

Need more help? Reference librarians are available to meet with students in one-on-one sessions (or in small groups) to discuss research strategies, recommend relevant resources or review specific topics of legal research. 

Contact with the subject you're researching and when you would like to meet. A librarian will get back to you to set up an appointment. You can also schedule an appointment on the library homepage by clicking "Schedule an Online Research Appointment." We ask that you request your appointment at least 2 days in advance, but remember that you can always stop by the reference desk for immediate help with a quick research question.