Review of Agency Rules in the D.C. Circuit: Back to the Future?
In the 1970 influential judges on the D.C. Circuit engaged in a well-publicized debate about the appropriate scope of judicial review of federal agency rulemaking. One faction led by Chief Judge Bazelon believed that judges were experts on procedure not the substance of regulation and wanted the courts to ensure that agencies used whatever procedures were necessary to make the best decision and build the sort of record necessary to make the best decision. On the other hand, Judges Leventhal and Wright believed that mandating additional procedures, beyond those required in the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), would lead to over-proceduralization and would ultimately slow down the rulemaking process. They believed that, instead, judges should examine and try to understand the technical matters at issue in the rulemaking in order to determine whether the agency had exercised reasoned discretion. This review, conducted under the arbitrary-and-capricious test of the APA, was labeled “hard look” a term coined by Judge Leventhal.