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Judicial Review of Agency Actions

15 January, 2016 - 09:30

Administrative agencies are creatures of law and like everyone else must obey the law. The courts have jurisdiction to hear claims that the agencies have overstepped their legal authority or have acted in some unlawful manner.

Courts are unlikely to overturn administrative actions, believing in general that the agencies are better situated to judge their own jurisdiction and are experts in rulemaking for those matters delegated to them by Congress. Some agency activities are not reviewable, for a number of reasons. However, after a business (or some other interested party) has exhausted all administrative remedies, it may seek judicial review of a final agency decision. The reviewing court is often asked to strike down or modify agency actions on several possible bases (see Strategies for Obtaining Judicial Review on “Strategies for Obtaining Judicial Review”).


Administrative agencies are given unusual powers: to legislate, investigate, and adjudicate. But these powers are limited by executive and legislative controls and by judicial review.


  1. Find the website of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Identify from that site a product that has been banned by the CPSC for sale in the United States. What reasons were given for its exclusion from the US market?
  2. What has Congress told the CPSC to do in its enabling act? Is this a clear enough mandate to guide the agency? What could Congress do if the CPSC does something that may be outside of the scope of its powers? What can an affected business do?