Judicial Review of Administrative Action: Standards, Scope, and Process

This comprehensive guide explores the standards, scope, and process of judicial review of administrative action, ensuring agencies act within legal bounds and respect individual rights, with detailed insights into the legal framework and practical implications.

Judicial review of administrative action is a fundamental aspect of administrative law, ensuring that administrative agencies act within their legal bounds and respect the rights of individuals. This comprehensive guide explores the standards, scope, and process of judicial review, providing detailed insights into the legal framework and practical implications.


Judicial review is the process by which courts examine the actions of administrative agencies to ensure they comply with the law. This mechanism serves as a check on administrative power, safeguarding against arbitrary or unlawful actions. The principles governing judicial review are rooted in statutory provisions, case law, and constitutional mandates.

Administrative Procedure Act (APA)

The Administrative Procedure Act (APA) is the cornerstone of federal administrative law in the United States. Enacted in 1946, the APA establishes the procedures for rulemaking, adjudication, and judicial review of agency actions.

U.S. Code Title 5, Chapter 7

Title 5, Chapter 7 of the U.S. Code outlines the provisions for judicial review of agency actions. It specifies the grounds for review, the scope of review, and the procedures to be followed.

Relevant Case Law

Judicial review is also shaped by significant court decisions that interpret and apply statutory provisions. Key cases include Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., and Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Association v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.

Standards of Review

Arbitrary and Capricious Standard

Under the APA, courts review agency actions to determine if they are "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law." This standard requires agencies to provide a rational explanation for their decisions.

Substantial Evidence Standard

For formal rulemaking and adjudication, courts apply the "substantial evidence" standard. This requires that an agency's findings be supported by "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion."

De Novo Review

In some cases, courts conduct a de novo review, meaning they examine the matter anew, without deferring to the agency's findings. This standard is typically applied in cases involving constitutional questions or where the agency's jurisdiction is in dispute.

Scope of Review

Questions of Law

Courts have the authority to review questions of law, including the interpretation of statutes and regulations. This includes determining whether an agency has exceeded its statutory authority.

Questions of Fact

While courts generally defer to an agency's factual findings, they may review the evidence to ensure it meets the substantial evidence standard. Courts may also review whether the agency's decision was based on a consideration of the relevant factors.

Procedural Compliance

Courts examine whether an agency has followed the required procedures in making its decision. This includes ensuring compliance with notice-and-comment rulemaking procedures and other procedural safeguards.

Process of Judicial Review

Initiating Judicial Review

To initiate judicial review, an individual or entity must have standing, meaning they must be directly affected by the agency's action. The party must also exhaust all administrative remedies before seeking judicial review.

Filing a Petition

The process begins with filing a petition for review in the appropriate court. The petition must be filed within the statutory time limit, typically 60 days from the date of the agency's final decision.

Record on Review

The court's review is generally confined to the administrative record, which includes all documents and evidence considered by the agency in making its decision. The agency is required to compile and submit this record to the court.

Briefing and Oral Argument

Both parties submit briefs outlining their arguments and supporting evidence. The court may also hold oral arguments to allow the parties to present their case and respond to questions from the judges.

Court's Decision

The court issues a written opinion, which may affirm, reverse, or remand the agency's decision. If the court finds that the agency's action was unlawful, it may set aside the decision and remand the case for further proceedings.


Judicial review of administrative action is a critical mechanism for ensuring that administrative agencies act within their legal bounds and respect the rights of individuals. By understanding the standards, scope, and process of judicial review, individuals and entities can better navigate the complexities of administrative law and seek redress for unlawful agency actions.


  1. Administrative Procedure Act
  2. 5 USC Ch. 7: Judicial Review
  3. Judicial Review Under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA)
  4. Judicial Review of Agency Action - acus wiki
  5. Summary of the Administrative Procedure Act | US EPA

This guide provides a comprehensive overview of the judicial review of administrative action, offering valuable insights into the legal standards, scope, and process involved. By adhering to the principles outlined in this guide, individuals and entities can effectively challenge unlawful administrative actions and uphold the rule of law.

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Von Wooding

Von Wooding

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