Administrative law refers to the regulations, statements of policy and adjudications by executive and independent agencies, boards and commissions located within the Commonwealth.
Executive agencies are under the control of the Governor and are often headed by a cabinet member; for example, the Secretary of Transportation oversees the Department of Transportation Independent agencies such as the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and Liquor Control Board (LCB) are not under the Governor's control.
Final agency regulations are published in the Pennsylvania Code, which can be found at: wwww.pacode.com
A guide on how to research relevant Pennsylvania Code citations is found here under the "How to Use" heading.
The Pennsylvania Code is available in print format in both the Harrisburg and Delaware libraries. Call Number: KFP35.A2 P3
Database identifier for Westlaw:
PA-ADC: Current Pennsylvania Code
Proposed, new, and modified regulations are initially published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin, which can be found at: www.pabulletin.com
The Pennsylvania Bulletin is also available in print format in both the Harrisburg (1995-forward) and Delaware (current and previous year) libraries. Call Number: KFP35.A2 P4
Older editions of the Pennsylvania Bulletin are available in microfilm. The Harrisburg library has volume 1 (1970) - volume 251:1 (1995) and the Delaware library volume 13 (1983) - volume 25:1 (1995). Call Number: KFP35.A2 P4
Database identifiers for Westlaw:
PA-ADR-OLD: Pennsylvania Bulletin from 2002-2010
PA-REGTXT: Current Pennsylvania Bulletin
Agencies must give reasonable notice and a hearing to a party before rendering an adjudication. 2 Pa.C.S. §504 Notice of an intended action is generally through an Order to Show Cause prepared by the agency legal staff and served on the party who is generally a regulated entity. An administrative hearing before the agency is held after notice of the time and place is published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin The agency is represented by in-house counsel; the respondent is also permitted to have counsel. Proceedings in an administrative hearing differ from those in a civil or criminal trial. Administrative hearings are governed by the Administrative Agency Law, 2 Pa.C.S. §§501-508, 701-704, the General Rules of Administrative Practice and Procedure, 1 Pa.Code §§31.1-35.251 and the agency's own regulations. Decisions rendered after administrative hearings are called adjudications and consist of findings of fact, conclusions of law and discussion. Few Commonwealth agencies publish their adjudications. Prior unpublished agency decisions may be persuasive but are not binding precedent.
An agency adjudication may be appealed to the agency head or board or directly to Commonwealth Court, depending on the agency¹s hearing system. For example, hearings at the Insurance Department are conducted by a Hearing Examiner, but the adjudication is issued directly by the Insurance Commissioner and may be appealed to Commonwealth Court. Hearings before state licensing boards housed in the Department of State are conducted before either a hearing examiner or the licensing board itself. Hearing examiner decisions, called "proposed reports," must be appealed to the board before an appeal may be taken to Commonwealth Court. Finally, independent agencies such as the LCB have Administrative Law Judges whose decisions can be appealed directly to Commonwealth Court.
Adjudications and orders of Commonwealth agencies can be appealed as of right to Commonwealth Court, a court of both original and appellate jurisdiction set up to handle government matters. Commonwealth Court follows the Pennsylvania Rules of Appellate Procedure as well as its own operating rules. The court's standard of review is limited to whether the agency committed an error of law or constitutional violation, or acted outside the scope of its authority. The court reviews the agency's findings of fact to see if they are supported by substantial evidence. 2 Pa.C.S. §704 The court may also address the constitutionality of an agency's enabling legislation. An agency decision reviewed by the Commonwealth Court may be reviewed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court if the Supreme Court grants allocatur.
2 Pa.C.S. §102 (Administrative Law and Procedure) grants agencies the authority to promulgate regulations to carry out their statutory missions. As a general rule, the enabling law that establishes an agency also grants the agency this important power. Regulations are the primary means by which agencies take action; regulations have the force and effect of law to ensure compliance by the regulated entities or industries.
To assure the public that regulations are within the agency's scope of statutory authority, the legislature enacted the Commonwealth Documents Law (CDL), 45 P.S. §§1102 et seq. and the Regulatory Review Act (RRA), 71 P.S. §§745.1 et seq.
These laws govern the promulgation of regulations and set forth a rigorous approval process which includes numerous layers of review by the Office of General Counsel, Attorney General, Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) and standing legislative committees.
The CDL requires publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin of proposed regulations and provides for public comments. Once approved by IRRC, final regulations, along with all comments received and the agency's responses thereto, are published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.
The Legislative Reference Bureau publishes final regulations in the Pennsylvania Code. At times, agencies, boards and commissions may review their current regulations and remove those that have been made obsolete by statutory changes or new procedures in the regulated field. The removal of regulations from the Pennsylvania Code is also governed by the CDL and RRA and is similar to the approval process. There are special provisions for emergency regulations to take effect under a temporary streamlined process. Emergency regulations are the exception, not the rule.
Agency-specific information can be found by going to their individual websites. A list of Pennsylvania agencies can be found on the Pennsylvania State web portal
Basic profiles of agencies are found in the Pennsylvania Manual at the PA Dept. of General Services website.
A print version of the Pennsylvania Manual is available in both Harrisburg and Delaware libraries. Call Number: JK3630.P4
The Pennsylvania Bar Institute has published several administrative law texts:
The PBI publications also offer a selection of publications dealing with specific state agencies which can be helpful, such as:
This journal publishes the Annual Survey of Pennsylvania Administrative Law. Pennsylvania generates a uniquely large amount of administrative law, and this publication was created to provide an analytical and expository forum for addressing this often ignored area. With the publication of the Survey, the Journal is the only law review specifically focusing on administrative law in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The Survey includes student-written analytical writing that examines Pennsylvania court decisions having a particularly significant impact on administrative law.
Call Number: K27. I250