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Administrative law is the body of law that arises from the activities of administrative agencies of government. Government agency action can include rulemaking, adjudication, or the enforcement of a specific regulatory agenda. Administrative law is considered a branch of public law. As a body of law, administrative law deals with the decision-making of administrative units of government (e.g., tribunals, boards or commissions) that are part of a state regulatory scheme in such areas as international trade, manufacturing, the environment, taxation, broadcasting, immigration and transport. Administrative law expanded greatly during the twentieth century, as legislative bodies world-wide created more government agencies to regulate the increasingly complex social, economic and political spheres of human interaction.
In the United States legal system, many government agencies are organized under the executive branch of government, rather than the judicial or legislative branches. The departments under the control of the executive branch, and their sub-units, are often referred to as executive agencies. The so-called executive agencies can be distinguished from the many important and powerful independent agencies, that are created by statutes enacted by the U.S. Congress. Congress has also created Article I judicial tribunals to handle some areas of administrative law.
The actions of executive agencies independent agencies are the main focus of American administrative law. In response to the rapid creation of new independent agencies in the early twentieth century, Congress enacted the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) in 1946. Many of the independent agencies operate as miniature versions of the tripartite federal government, with the authority to "legislate" (through rulemaking), "adjudicate" (through administrative hearings), and to "execute" administrative goals (through agency enforcement personnel). Because the United States Constitution sets no limits on this tripartite authority of administrative agencies, Congress enacted the APA to establish fair administrative law procedures to comply with the requirements of Constitutional due process.