Judicial review of settlements under the California Administrative Procedure Act

Regulations enacted each year by California’s more than 200 regulatory agencies may be reviewed by the judicial branch of state government to determine whether the regulation complies with the state’s Administrative Procedure Act (APA). When the judiciary reviews these regulations, what do state judges consider?

First, the judiciary independently reviews administrative regulations to ensure they comply with applicable law – the APA. Communities for a better environment c. California Resources Agency (2002) 103 Cal. App. 4and 98 In determining whether a by-law complies with the PCPA, the by-law is valid unless it is unreasonable in light of discernible statutory purposes, even though another by-law would better meet the statutory purposes. Association of California Insurance Companies v. Poizner (2009) 180 Cal. App. 4and 1029, examination refused

Second, when the court assesses the validity of quasi-statutory rules, the scope of its review is narrow and whether it is satisfied that the rule in question falls within legislative authority delegated by the legislature and that it is reasonably necessary to implement subject of the law, judicial review is coming to an end.

In determining whether an agency has misinterpreted the law it purports to implement, a court gives weight to the agency’s interpretation, but the weight to be given to an agency’s interpretation is situational, and a greater weight may be appropriate when an agency has a comparative advantage in interpreting before the courts such as when the legal text to be interpreted is technical, obscure, complex, open-ended, or related to issues of fact, policy, and discretion .

A court may find that the legislature has delegated the task of interpreting or making a law to an administrative agency where the legislature uses open statutory language that an agency is authorized to apply or where a question of interpretation is heavily responsible for policy choices that the agency is empowered to make. Our Children’s Earth Foundation v State Air Resources Board 92015) 234 Cal.App. 4and 870, examination refused

The limited scope of review by a reviewing court of the enactment of a regulation by an agency, focused on whether the agency has reasonably interpreted its legislative mandate, does not constitute any judicial interference with the discretion of administration in this aspect of the regulatory function, which requires a high degree of technical competence and know-how. In re Edwards (2018) 237 Cal.Rptr. 3rd 673

Third, in deciding whether a regulation is reasonably necessary to achieve the purpose of its statutory mandate, even if enabling legislation only authorizes such reasonable rules and regulations as may be “necessary”, a court should not seek to determine whether the impugned regulation is strictly “necessary”, but rather must determine whether the agency reasonably interpreted its authority in deciding that the regulation was necessary to achieve the purpose of the law.

When it comes to the judicial review of an administrative regulation for compliance with applicable law, the question is whether the regulation modifies or modifies the law or case law in force, or expands or reduces its scope. In short, the question is whether the settlement falls within the authority conferred and, if not, it is void. Samantha C.c. State Department of Developmental Services (2010) 185 Cal.App. 4and 1462, examination refused

Fourth, courts reviewing the interpretation of a by-law by the administrative board responsible for enforcing the by-law must respect the subject matter expertise of the board. The board’s interpretation must stand unless it is manifestly wrong or unauthorized. Teichert Construction c. California Occupational Safety and Health Appeal Board (2006) 140 Cal. App. 4and 883

In addition, a finding by the OAL that the proposed regulations meet the California APA’s “necessity” and “clarity” requirements – or meet one of the other requirements that the OAL is required to to review under Government Code Section 11349.1(a) – does not mean overriding the power of the superior court to review regulations enacted by an agency to ensure that they comply with these requirements. Courts reviewing regulations to comply with the APA owe no deference to the opinion of the issuing body that it has complied with the requirements of the APA. Sims v. Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (2013) 216 Cal.App. 4and 1059

Finally, challenging the validity of a proposed settlement during the public comment period is not a prerequisite for legal action. An interested person seeking to challenge the validity of a by-law may choose to pursue the pre-adoption administrative remedy, the post-adoption judicial remedy, or both. Coastside Fishing Club vs. California Fish and Game Commission (2013) 215 Cal.App. 4and 397