Agency Procedure
Agencies provide an alternative to the courts for the resolution of disputes and the enforcement of laws. The key values in administrative law are accuracy, fairness, efficiency, and acceptability. In the court system, the judge is a referee and the jurors are selected for impartiality, which usually includes not knowing anything about the dispute before the court. The lawyers put on their cases and, to some extent, the outcome is determined by the lawyer’s skill, the money available to litigate the case, and the sympathy of the jury. All too often, juries come in with verdicts that conflict with the best medical or scientific knowledge.
Court proceedings are also very time consuming. Some problems, such as a food- borne illness outbreak, must be addressed quickly. Agencies are empowered to take action without preceding court hearings, and to take novel actions if needed to protect the public. Since agencies do not have the power to imprison, they are not bound by the Constitutional protections provided to criminal law defendants. Without such powers, the government would be paralyzed because the only way to respond to new problems would be to pass specific legislation addressing the problem. The obverse of this power is potential tyranny by a powerful agency. To combat this, the states and the federal government have passed laws establishing the bounds on agency power, and establishing procedural guidelines for agencies.