What Do the Studies of Judicial Review of Agency Actions Mean?

19 Pages Posted: 26 May 2010

See all articles by Richard J. Pierce

Richard J. Pierce

George Washington University Law School

Date Written: May 25, 2010


In this essay, I discuss the meaning of ten empirical studies of judicial review of agency actions that have been published over the last twenty years. The most robust findings are: a court’s choice among the six deference doctrines courts now use has no effect on the outcome of cases; the ideological preferences of judges and Justices explain about 30% of their votes; members of politically mixed panels indulge their ideological preferences about half as often as do members of politically homogenous panels; and, the D.C. Circuit is consistently less deferential than other circuits. I conclude by endorsing David Zaring’s proposal to simplify review doctrine by replacing the present six doctrines with a single doctrine - a reviewing court should uphold any reasonable agency decision. A court can implement that doctrine by asking three simple questions: Is the action consistent with applicable statutes? Is the action consistent with the available evidence? Has the agency adequately explained the action?

Suggested Citation

Pierce, Richard J., What Do the Studies of Judicial Review of Agency Actions Mean? (May 25, 2010). Administrative Law Review, Forthcoming, GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 505, GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 505, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1604701

Richard J. Pierce (Contact Author)

George Washington University Law School ( email )

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