Agencies in Crisis?: An Examination of State and Federal Agency Emergency Powers

47 Pages Posted: 25 Jun 2012 Last revised: 6 May 2013

See all articles by Babette Boliek

Babette Boliek

Pepperdine University - Rick J. Caruso School of Law

Date Written: March 12, 2011


That state and federal agencies have emergency powers, is well known. Much less is known about the process and circumstances under which these powers are exercised — subjects that divide scholars into two theoretical camps. Scholars on one side assert that ample agency discretion in time of need is not only desirable, but it is laudable in the pursuit of efficiency and “deossification” of regulatory action. Scholars on the other side contend that emergency powers are so broadly granted, and representative procedure is so easily abandoned, that the inevitable result is agency unaccountability and aggrandizement. In response, this article presents new empirical research that shows a startling rise in the actual use of federal emergency power (the “good cause” exemption) and extensive use by certain state agencies of their comparable emergency rulemaking powers. After conducting a novel and comprehensive normative analysis, this article concludes by offering an approach to reharmonize the efficiency/public participation trade-off for emergency rulemaking at both the state and federal level: (i) to restrict federal agency emergency powers in language and structure and (ii) to increase agency flexibility at the state level. This article is incredibly timely, as not only has the general level of emergency rulemaking increased, but federal and state administrative agencies must now gird themselves for an increased burden on agencies that regulate health insurance programs. In this arena in particular, the empirical evidence reveals intense tension between administrative efficiency and public participation and a compelling need for an immediate rebalancing of these competing interests.

Keywords: administrative law, emergency power, 553(b), state adminstrative law, good cause, imminent peril, Medicaid, Affordable Care Act, Model State Administrative Act

JEL Classification: H1, K23, K40

Suggested Citation

Boliek, Babette, Agencies in Crisis?: An Examination of State and Federal Agency Emergency Powers (March 12, 2011). 81 Fordham Law Review 101 (2013), Available at SSRN:

Babette Boliek (Contact Author)

Pepperdine University - Rick J. Caruso School of Law ( email )

24255 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA 90263
United States

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