Administrative Procedure Act

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The Administrative Procedure Act (APA) is a federal act that governs the procedures of administrative law. The APA is codified in 5 U.S.C. §§ 551–559.

The core pieces of the act establish how federal administrative agencies make rules and how they adjudicate administrative litigation. 5 U.S.C. § 551(5)–(7) clarifies that rulemaking is the “agency process for formulating, amending, and repealing a rule,” and adjudication is the final disposition of an agency matter other than rulemaking. That is, rulemaking goes beyond resolution of specific controversies between parties and includes management and administrative functions. Rulemaking and adjudication can be formal or informal, which in turn determines which APA procedural requirements apply. The APA applies to the different types of administrative actions as follows:

  • Formal Rulemaking. 5 U.S.C. §§ 553, 556, and 557 govern formal rulemaking. 
  • Informal Rulemaking. 5 U.S.C. § 553 governs informal rulemaking. 
  • Formal Adjudication. 5 U.S.C. §§ 554, 556, and 557 govern formal adjudication. 
  • Informal Adjudication. The APA does not establish procedural requirements for informal administrative adjudication, but the Due Process Clause of the constitution, the specific agency’s regulations, or other statutes may create procedural protections.

[Last updated in July of 2024 by the Wex Definitions Team]