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U.S. Administrative Law Research

A guide to finding regulations and administrative decisions issued by federal agencies


Administrative law is the body of law created by administrative agencies in the form of rules, regulations, procedures, orders, and decisions. The Administrative Procedure Act, 5 USC §§551 et seq., establishes the basic procedural standards for federal agencies.

Agencies are given the authority to issue and enforce regulations by acts of Congress (laws). This delegation of authority may be general or specific. For an example of a general delegation of authority, see the National Labor Relations Act provision giving the National Labor Relations Board authority to issue "rules and regulations as may be necessary" to implement the Act. (29 U.S.C. §156). Contrast that general statement with the more specific delegation of authority in the Organic Foods Product Act of 1990, which gives the Secretary of Agriculture the authority to develop "detailed regulations . . . [for] the implementation of the standards for livestock products" (7 U.S.C.§ 6509 (g)).

Proposed regulations are first published in the Federal Register for a public comment period. Adopted and in-force regulations are published in the annual Code of Federal Regulations.

Related Guides


Understanding Administrative Law, by David Stieber, UW Tech Policy Lab (March 17, 2016) (6:45)

What Is the Federal Register?, by William Cuthbertson, Government Information Education and Outreach Librarian at the University of Colorado Boulder (May 5, 2011) (2:53)

Master the CFR, Office of the Federal Register (Aug. 20, 2014) (0:46)

This is the first of a series: Intro to the Code of Federal Regulations (1:27); Researching the Code of Federal Regulations (9:02); "Current as of", [RESERVED], and DO.