What is the Administrative Procedure Act?

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  • Written By: Felicia Dye
  • Edited By: J.T. Gale
  • Last Modified Date: 13 February 2020
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The Administrative Procedure Act is a United States (US) federal law that was enacted in 1946. This body of legislation outlines the handling of regulations made by federal agencies and departments. It contains sections regarding open meetings, rule-making, and imposition of sanctions.

Administrative agencies play an important role in American society. Examples of such entities include the Food and Drug Administration, Department of Homeland Security, and the Treasury Department. Such agencies and departments are granted certain powers and responsibilities. The Administrative Procedure Act, which is found under title 5 of the United States Code, acts as a constitutional safeguard for both these agencies and departments and the public.

According to the Administrative Procedure Act, the rules outlined include agencies that exist within other agencies. The law, however, outlines bodies that are not subject to the regulations of this legislation. These include Congress, federal courts, and military commissions.

The Administrative Procedure Act goes into detail as to how federal entities handle their rule and regulation proceedings. It also requires federal agencies to make certain information available to the public in the Federal Register. For example, all agencies governed by the Administrative Procedure Act must state from whom and by what methods members of the public can obtain information and make requests and inquiries. Those agencies must disclose information about agency forms and where such forms can be obtained. Also, those agencies must disclose their rules and policies and any changes made to them.


Due to the Administration Procedure Act, an agency or department cannot just publish rules that were randomly made at will. Rule-making must follow a certain process. That process includes informing the public of the time, place, and nature of rule-making proceedings. Except in special cases, there must also be periods allowed for interested parties to participate in the rule-making process and to appeal decisions that are made.

The Administrative Procedure Act attempts to prevent federal agencies from becoming too powerful or making harmful decisions. It does this by giving federal courts the power to review decisions that are made by agencies. Also, it gives people the right to request that a court review claims of wrongdoing against them by agencies or agents of federal agencies. In such cases the US can be named as a defendant. This legislation denies courts the right to dismiss such cases based solely on the grounds that the complaint is against the US.


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