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The process whereby courts review decisions or adjudications regarding disputes made by an administrative body division of a government agency charged with interpreting or enforcing legislative mandates. In the instance of most federal statutes this is ultimately done by the District court with various further appellate remedies dependant on the particular circumstances.
Ordinarily one expects review of an administrative decision to be limited to the record before the administrative body, and for the court to be required to affirm if substantial evidence on the whole record supports the administrative determination. 5 U.S.C. S 706; Ojai Unified Sch. Dist. v. Jackson, 4 F.3d 1467, 1471 (9th Cir. 1993).
When "violation of a regulation subjects private parties to criminal or civil sanctions, a regulation cannot be construed to mean what an agency intended but did not adequately express." Phelps Dodge Corp. v. Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Comm'n, 681 F.2d 1189, 1193 (9th Cir. 1982) (internal quotation omitted). Thus, "[t]he responsibility to promulgate clear and unambiguous standards is on the [agency]. The test is not what [the agency] might possibility have intended, but what [was] said. If the language is faulty, the[agency] had the means and obligation to amend." Marshall v. Anaconda Co., 596 F.2d 370, 377 n.6 (9th Cir. 1979). Thus, reliance on policies underlying a statute cannot be treated as a substitute for the agency's duty to promulgate clear and definitive regulations. Id.
There is a proposition that deference is ordinarily owed to an agency's interpretation of its own regulations. See Providence Hosp. of Toppenish v. Shalala, 52 F.3d 213, 216 (9th Cir. 1995). However, no deference is owed when an agency has not formulated an official interpretation of its regulation, but is merely advancing a litigation position. See Idaho Dep't of Health & Welfare v. United States Dep't of Energy, 959 F.2d 149, 153 (9th Cir. 1992).