An administrative order is a decision issued by a governmental agency through an administrative court judge on matters of dispute between citizens and the agency. Administrative courts are limited in jurisdiction and derive power from a statute that authorizes the creation of the agency and details its realm of regulatory control. Orders of agency courts and agency regulations make up the body of a jurisdiction’s administrative law.
Governmental systems based on the English tradition are typically comprised of executive, legislative, and judiciary branches. The judiciary system of courts and judges has the primary authority to interpret the law of the land in civil and criminal matters. Certain government agencies outside the judicial branch are established by statute to regulate aspects of life within a jurisdiction and are empowered to take the statute that defines its authority and create working regulations to detail the procedures for complying with the law. The process of an agency issuing and enforcing regulations based on an authorizing statute is known as administrative law.
Most administrative agencies, particularly ones that regulate consumer conduct, have internal systems for resolving disputes between people and the agency. Some use a panel or commission that hears disputes. Others use an administrative law judge who presides over a proceeding that functions very much like an ordinary court case. In either instance, the judge or panel issues a ruling on the matter, called an administrative order. This order controls the way a regulation is interpreted and enforced in the future.
The administrative law process is external to a jurisdiction’s regular judiciary. Those who serve as administrative law judges or on commissions or panels are not necessarily lawyers and need not have any formal legal education. An administrative order is only relevant to the regulations adopted by the agency and only has informative weight in a regular court. In some cases, this type of order can be appealed to a regular court and sometimes to the highest court in a jurisdiction.
An example of an administrative agency that issues a stream of administrative orders is the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The U.S. Internal Revenue Code establishes the country’s tax scheme and authorizes the IRS to go about collecting taxes from residents under the law. To aid in its task, the IRS passes regulations that tell people when and how to file their taxes and assesses fines and penalties against people who do not follow the rules. The IRS can bring an action against a person for violating the regulations and can issue a ruling or an administrative order to resolve a tax dispute between the agency and a taxpayer.