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Administrative Practice before State and Federal Agencies

Jack D. Palma, II, Karol L. Kahalley, Natural Resources & Environmental Litigation II (1996)

The first federal agency was created in 1789. However, the dawn of modern administrative law probably emerged in 1887, when Congress created the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC). Designed as a hybrid—having executive, legislative and judicial functions—the ICC was the prototype of the contemporary administrative agency. Over a century later, independent regulatory agencies at both the federal and state level have assumed a prominent position in the American legal arena.

Many groups, including the American Bar Association, have historically decried the combined executive, judicial and legislative powers of administrative agencies.2 Some have called agencies the “headless fourth” branch of government, bemoaning the lack of political accountability for agency decisions. At the same time, others have noted the importance of agencies in taking on tasks which would otherwise bury an overburdened court system.3

Whatever one's opinion, administrative agencies perform critical functions from investigation, policy setting, and rulemaking to licensing, permitting, regulation, enforcement and adjudication. They are in most instances the regulators, enforcers and adjudicators of many aspects of natural resources and environmental rights, privileges, and obligations. Consequently, it is imperative for practitioners in these areas to feel comfortable and be competent adj