|The Federal Administrative Procedure Act (FAPA) is a federal law that governs the procedures used by federal administrative agencies in adopting and enforcing their rules and regulations. There are more than 50 federal regulatory agencies. The purpose of FAPA is to ensure uniformity and openness in the administrative procedures of those agencies.
Constitutional Limits of Federal Agency Actions
Federal agencies must act within constitutional limits. In general, due process requires notice and an opportunity to be heard for those affected by agency action. In the context of federal rulemaking, this means that an agency must give public notice of any proposed regulation and must provide interested parties an opportunity to comment on the proposed regulation. In the context of federal adjudication, due process requires the agency to give an affected person or company notice of its action and an opportunity to challenge the agency's action.
After the U.S. Congress passes a law addressing a specific problem or need, the appropriate federal agency drafts rules and regulations to implement the law. The FAPA requires an agency to publish a notice of any proposed rule in the Federal Register. The Federal Register is the official daily publication for all rules, proposed rules, and notices of federal agencies. Once the notice of the proposed rule is published, the general public is given an opportunity to comment on the proposal. After the comment period has ended, the agency adopts a final rule. The final rule must be published in the Federal Register at least 30 days before the rule takes effect.
Federal Agency Adjudication
Federal agency adjudication falls into three broad categories: regulation, entitlement, and enforcement. Regulatory cases deal with federal regulation of rates and services. For example, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is involved in federal regulation of the energy industry. Entitlement cases deal with federal benefit claims by individuals. For example, the Social Security Act provides disability benefits for certain individuals. Enforcement cases deal with actions taken by a federal agency to enforce federal laws and regulations. For example, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates prescription drugs. The FDA can take enforcement action against a drug company that fails to comply with the FDA's regulations covering the labeling of prescription drugs.
Federal Agency Hearings and Decisions
FAPA provides for an administrative hearing if a person or company is dissatisfied with an agency's application or enforcement of its rules and regulations. For example, if the Social Security Administration denies benefits to a person (or reduces or terminates the person's benefits), that person can object to the agency's decision. An administrative hearing then is held to review the agency's decision. The hearing is informal, and an administrative law judge (ALJ) presides over the hearing. The ALJ makes a decision, which is called an administrative order or an administrative decision. The ALJ's decision is subject to review by a higher level within the agency or by a court.
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