Administrative law; agencies; APA; policy; cities; states


Administrative law is critical to the modern practice of governance. Administrative rules fill the gaps in statutes left open by lawmakers, allow agencies to exercise legislative grants of authority and discretion, and give agencies with subject-matter expertise and frontline experience the opportunity to promulgate detailed standards and requirements in their designated issue areas. Adjudication allows an agency to dispose of matters and disputes formally before it, whether under its rules or another source of law. While agencies at every level of government—federal, state, and local— engage in administrative action, legal scholarship on administrative law is almost exclusively focused on the federal realm, which is shaped by the Administrative Procedure Act. States can look to a Model State Administrative Procedure Act drafted by experts at the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, a document that was originally promulgated around the same time as the federal Administrative Procedure Act, for guidance on ordering the activities of their agencies. Local governments, however, have far fewer resources to draw upon. This Note argues that the time has come for localities to embrace the codification of administrative procedures. The governments and agencies of localities have always played a prominent role in the everyday lives of residents, as well as regional and national economic structures, and their work will benefit from procedural statutes. Cities, in particular, have taken on an increasingly central role as political agents and policy entrepreneurs and this shift underscores the need for greater procedural guidance. To make the case, this Note briefly examines the purposes and history of modern administrative law, analyzes approaches taken by exemplar cities, lays out and probes some of arguments for and against more rigorous procedures at the local level, and proposes three methods to help localities and states undertake this project.