The federal and state governments all have three branches of government: the Legislative Branch, the Executive Branch, and the Judicial Branch. Each branch issues different types of information.
One type of information issued by the Executive Branch of the federal and state governments is administrative regulations. Administrative regulations are created by the jurisdictions’ administrative agencies.
Administrative law research involves two primary resources: the jurisdiction’s administrative register and the jurisdiction’s administrative code.
When an administrative agency wants to promulgate new regulations, it first must publish the proposed regulations in the jurisdiction’s administrative register. The administrative register notifies the public of actions by the jurisdiction’s Executive Branch. Contents of administrative registers vary by jurisdiction, but they can include proposed regulations, final regulations, notices of public hearings, and new court rules.
The publication schedules of administrative registers vary by jurisdiction. The United States federal government publishes its administrative register (the Federal Register) every business day. Many states publish their administrative registers weekly. New Jersey publishes its register twice a month.
After proposed regulations are published in the jurisdiction’s administrative register, the public is given the opportunity to comment on regulations either in writing or at public hearings. After the public comment period, the final regulations are published in the administrative register.
In addition to an administrative register, every jurisdiction also has an administrative code. This is a compilation of all current administrative regulations of a jurisdiction, arranged by subject. As new regulations are created by the jurisdiction, they are incorporated into the jurisdiction’s administrative code. As old regulations are repealed, they are removed from the administrative code.
To locate current administrative regulations, a researcher needs to review their jurisdiction’s administrative code. To make sure their information is accurate, the researcher also needs to check the currency date of their version of the administrative code and then determine if any issues of the jurisdiction’s administrative register have been published after the current date. If issues of the jurisdiction’s administrative register have been published after the administrative code’s currency date, the research needs to review those issues to determine if they include any information relevant to their interests.
Administrative law research can also involve opinions from attorney generals and administrative law judges. The availability of those resources varies by jurisdiction.
That is a basic overview of general administrative law research. The rest of this guide discusses how to conduct New Jersey administrative law research.
Any researcher of New Jersey administrative law must be familiar with the state’s Office of Administrative Law (OAL) OAL is the centralized authority for administrative hearings for most state agencies. It also reviews agency proposed rulemaking notices for conformance with the state’s Administrative Procedures Act and processes such notices for publication in the New Jersey Register. OAL’s website has databases of decisions, proposed and final rules and valuable information on administrative law in the state.