Originally uploaded at SSRN.

46 Ga. L. Rev. ___ (forthcoming 2012).


The Georgia Supreme Court and Court of Appeals have long accepted the General Assembly’s authority to enact legislation that establishes administrative agencies and empowers those agencies to promulgate rules and regulations to implement their enabling statutes. In addition, the Georgia Constitution provides that the General Assembly may authorize agencies to exercise quasi-judicial powers. Administrative agencies with broad powers enjoy a secure position under Georgia law.

Like federal and state administrative agencies throughout the nation, Georgia’s many boards, commissions and authorities make policy when they apply their governing statutes in promulgating regulations of general applicability, and in ruling on specific matters like granting or denying an application for a permit or determining the residency of a candidate for public office. Sometimes the governing statutes are clear, but sometimes there is ambiguity. When there is ambiguity in its governing statute, the agency must interpret that legislation when it promulgates regulations or decides a particular contested matter. This article asks and answers the question of what deference, if any, must a Georgia court afford to an agency’s interpretation of its governing statute when it reviews an agency’s decision in a contested case or considers a challenge to the validity or applicability of an agency’s regulation.