Back to Publications

Administrative Actions

William H. Allen, Natural Resources Administrative Law and Procedure (1981)

Administrative law has been recognized by the American legal profession as a separate legal discipline — a subject for legal study and discourse separate from other legal subjects — for no more than two, perhaps three generations. It was only 65 years ago that Elihu Root in his presidential address to the American Bar Association urged the members to develop a “system of administrative law.”1

In the intervening years we have indeed seen the development of a system of administrative law, which I take to be the law that governs the relations of private persons to agencies of government. Administrative law partakes of other branches of law — constitutional law, contracts, torts — but it is separate and different from any of them.

Full acceptance of this branch of the law has come even slower than recognition of its separateness. It has not really come yet. In 1920, my late partner John Lord O'Brian gave an address before the Maryland State Bar Association that he called “The Menace of Administrative Law.”2 He was moved to denounce what he viewed as current excesses in alien deportation proceedings. But he generalized: “Administrative government is not responsible government; every attempt to enlarge its scope should be viewed with jealous scrutiny.”3 And he concluded:

“It is not the work, the zeal or the errors of public officials now in office that matt