The two primary duties of administrative agencies are rulemaking and adjudication of cases presented by agency staff to administrative law judges.

1.      Rulemaking

The statutes at work authorize administrative agencies to conduct legislative functions such as the formulation of rules and regulations. Coglianese (2016) stated that administrative agencies make the laws which guide and limit the activities of various government bodies. When completing the legislative duties, the agencies should adhere to the three key rulemaking frameworks (formal, informal, and hybrid) indicated in the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). This may only be altered if the agencies receive specific guidance on how to conduct the rulemaking process (Kubasek, 2016). The conditions that APA requires agencies to follow when working with the formal model is to first publish the proposed rule in the Federal Register as a way of notifying the relevant authorities about it. The notification period should be long enough to allow the concerned parties to comment on it. After receiving the comments, the agencies should publish the rule, stating clearly the final rule’s focus and purpose. This final rule is also written in the Federal Register.

The most popular rulemaking model among administrative agencies is the informal alternative, which is time and cost-efficient. Moreover, it does not require the public hearing and formal records that are crucial for the formal option. If any parties oppose the rules agencies make using the informal model, they need to present to appellate court the evidence that the concerned agency left out crucial factors when making the rule (Coglianese, 2016). Some interested parties, however, expressed their dissatisfaction with the fact that informal rulemaking only gave them the opportunity to contribute their opinions through writing. This led to the birth of hybrid rulemaking. The latter integrates certain features of formal and informal frameworks. Hybrid rulemaking, thus, directs agencies to provide a notice whenever they propose a regulation, give time for public comments, host a public hearing, and allow an independent executive agency to perform cost-benefit assessment.

Still, APA’s section 553 authorises agencies to make decisions on the need for participation when the rules being made relate to military/foreign affairs or personnel and agency management (Kubasek, 2016). This also applies to proceedings associating with loans, benefits, contracts, grants, or public property. These procedures run without both public comment and notice. The reason is that matters in this category require secrecy and urgency, hence no time for the formal procedures. After the administrative agency promulgates a regulation and publishes it in the Federal Register, it is considered a law (Coglianese, 2016). The agency-promulgated regulations also get acceptance of the appellate courts and is seen as law except when a particular business or affected parties prove certain vagueness or limitations in the congregational delegation of the legislative powers.

2.      Adjudication

The adjudication role of administrative agencies come to play after they receive a complaint that alleges a breach of administrative law. The agency begins by notifying the accused party and then investigates the benefits of the complaint (Beermann, 2018). If the outcomes of the investigation reveal that the complaint contains merit, the agency begins a negotiation with accused party to find out the party’s willingness to stop the violation. The investigation is usually performed by the Bureau of Competition and the Consumer Protection Bureau (which are part of FTC) as soon as complaints reach them (Kubasek, 2016). The complaints they handle could come from either consumers or competitors, or government agencies. FTC staff will then ask the party that has allegedly violated administrative law to stop the illegal conduct voluntarily. A company that agrees to this proposal does not receive any penalty. If the staff do not get voluntary compliance, they allow the accused individual or company a duration of 10 days to decide to enter consent order or leave it so that the staff continue with issuing of a formal complaint. The case is usually closed at this point if the FTC staff receive voluntary compliance.

The third step starts when the negotiation is not successful. Here, the agency files a complaint which is presented to the administrative law judge. The commission staff will avail a formal complaint that outlines all the charges labelled against the accused party via FTC’s General Counsel Office (Kubasek, 2016). The staff from the commission will as well request the administrative law judges to assess given penalties. The last step is where hearing is held and the administrative law judge makes a decision. The hearing happens before an administrative law judge and often last several months or even years. It involves issuing of notices to the concerned parties, revelation of findings from investigation, evidence presentation, evaluation of witnesses, and submission of arguments to the administrative law judge (Beermann, 2018). The only differences between the hearings and court proceedings is the absence of a jury and that they are less formal (Kubasek, 2016). The hearing is followed by submission of proposed outcomes by both the respondent and commission staff. 

Conclusions of the law also become clear at this point. The administrative law judge then prepares a recommended judgement. Each one of these four adjudication steps must follow the directives and procedures offered by APA (Kubasek, 2016). After this, the accused party may appeal to the agency or a federal court and even the Supreme Court (in the U.S.). The party that loses has to file an appeal motion federal circuit court with the jurisdiction in such a case (Beermann, 2018). Both parties must file briefs and engage in an oral argument before the court. The court reviews all aspects of administrative law judge’s findings to confirm that they are reasonable.