Reference : Law, Public Interest and Interpretation: Prolegomena of a Normative Framework on Admi...
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Law, criminology & political science : Political science, public administration & international relations
Law, criminology & political science : European & international law
Law / European Law
Law, Public Interest and Interpretation: Prolegomena of a Normative Framework on Administrative Discretion in the EU
Mendes, Joana mailto [University of Luxembourg > Faculty of Law, Economics and Finance (FDEF) > Law Research Unit >]
Yale Law School
Law, Economics and Public Policy Research Paper Series No. 519
[en] administrative discretion ; role of law ; public interests ; judicial review
[en] It is conventionally assumed that administrative discretionary decisions are determined
by political and expert-driven considerations and that law’s structuring and constraining capacity
in that regard is and should be limited. Law defines a space within which discretionary choices
are irrelevant to law because they have the same legal value. These tenets have shaped both the
ways the Court of Justice of the European Union has approached judicial review of discretion
and, more generally, the way law is perceived to structure administrative discretion in the
Member States and also in the EU. However, the recent expansion of the regulatory powers of
the European Union justifies revisiting these basic axioms. In particular, how far should
discretion be shielded from the values that EU law conveys?
This paper proposes a normative elaboration of a core idea of public law to stress that law twins
administrative discretion with a duty of regard to pre-determined public interests. On this basis,
legal rules are able to provide a yardstick of critique of decisions that administrative officials
adopt within spaces of discretion. An analysis of the Meroni judgment shows how this argument
applies to EU law. But this claim only prepares the ground for a more complex inquiry: How
does law operate – and how should it operate – within the spaces of administrative discretion,
and how should courts review discretionary decisions? Administrative decision-makers
construct the law in a specific institutional context in view of their specific tasks. Arguably, one
should understand the specific processes through which they interpret the law to know how law
may provide substantive criteria that guide discretionary choices. Such understanding would also
be the basis to define and assess suitable degrees of judicial review of administrative discretion.
One could then make a critical assessment – difficult to make at present – of the shifting
boundaries between spaces of discretion and of judicial review that the dictum “manifest error of
assessment, misuse of power or excess of power” conceals. This latter argument draws on the
debate among US administrative law scholars on agency interpretation of statutes, but it is also
mindful of conceptual distinctions that have prevailed in legal scholarship in Europe. The paper
defines the prolegomena of a normative framework of a broader research project. It is work in
De Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek

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