To be capricious is to have an unpredictable, sudden, and unaccountable change in attitude or behavior.
In the legal context, capricious is defined in Boothe v. Roofing Supply, Inc. of Monroe: “arbitrary and capricious conduct is willful and unreasonable action without consideration or regard for the facts and circumstances."
Arbitrary and capricious is a standard for judicial review and appeal, often seen in administrative law. Under this standard, the finding of a lower court will not be disturbed unless it has no reasonable basis, or if the judge decided without reasonable grounds or adequate consideration of the circumstances.
Although there is no set standard for an arbitrary and capricious decision, guidance can be found in Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. v. United States EPA: 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A) authorizes the court to "set aside agency action ... found to be ... arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law." Under this standard, a court must find a "rational connection between the facts found and the choice made" per Motor Vehicle Mfrs. Ass'n v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. (1983). The court must decide whether the agency considered the relevant factors and whether there has been a clear error of judgment; see Citizens to Preserve Overton Park, Inc. v. Volpe, 401 U.S. 402, 416 (1971).
Scope of Review: 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A)
[Last updated in July of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]