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State and federal agencies are tasked with the day-to-day enforcement of laws. Regulations generally guide that enforcement. However, because regulations are not enacted or promulgated by a legislative body, there is often significant ambiguity about the intent and meaning of regulations, and the agency’s authority and means of enforcing them. This can create significant uncertainty for businesses and their owners, particularly when an agency takes an administrative action and/or issues a fine against a business for a purported violation of a regulation.

Regulations are a creature of statutes. Statutes are generally enacted by a legislative body such as the United States Congress or the Washington State Legislature (and also via ballot initiative or referendum). To facilitate the carrying out of the intentions statute(s), and sometimes pursuant to provisions contained therein, appropriate state and/or federal agencies will propose regulation(s) and/or rule(s) for carrying out and/or enforcing the statute on a day-to-day basis. This is better known as the rulemaking process and/or promulgation.

The appropriate state and/or agency will research relevant issues regarding the potential rule, and if deemed appropriate, then issue a Notice of Proposed Rule Making. The proposed rule then must be made publicly available (and/or published), and interested parties (and others) may comment on, advocate for, and/or oppose the rule(s) or (regulation(s)). Thereafter, the agency will review and analyze the comments, and decide whether to proceed with the rule making process, issue (promulgate) the new or modified proposed rule(s) or (regulation(s)), or withdraw them. If approved, at the state level, approved regulation(s) are promulgated in the Washington Administrative Code. At the federal level, approved regulation(s) are promulgated in the Code of Federal Regulations. Promulgated regulations have repeatedly been overturned by Courts due to conflicts with statutes and/or constitutional issues. Similarly, federal and state agencies enforcement of statutes and regulations have repeatedly been overturned by Courts for a variety of reasons.

After the promulgation of the regulation(s), it is then up to the appropriate state or federal agency (and their employees) to carry out its enforcement. Agencies’ interpretations of the rules and their ability to enforce the regulations is sometimes done in an inconsistent, self-serving and/or illegal manner, which can have significant adverse effects on the businesses and industries (usually businesses) that the rule is intended to govern, which can end up costing tens of thousands of dollars, if not more.

​That said, parties that are negatively affected by the actions of an agency and/or its enforcement of a rule or regulation have options to appeal and/or contest said actions and enforcement. And that option or process, generally starts under the Washington State Administrative Procedure Act and at the federal level, the Administrative Procedure Act.

The regulatory enforcement actions of state and federal agencies can have a significant impact on the day-to-day operations of businesses subject to them, particularly in highly regulated industries such as loan origination. Most businesses and their owners seek stability so that they can operate their business and comply with applicable statutes and regulations. However, state and federal agencies occasionally will reinterpret regulations and their enforcement of them, thereby, creating uncertainty for the businesses that the regulations affect.

​To navigate this uncertainty, an administrative and/or enforcement action from an agency, and/or ensure compliance with applicable regulations, it is important for businesses to work with an attorney that is well versed with administrative laws and appeals. Even if an agency takes an administrative and/or enforcement action, the business almost always has the right to appeal and/or contest it pursuant to the Washington State Administrative Procedure Act and federal Administrative Procedure Act.


Attorney Joel Murray has extensive knowledge and experience in helping businesses navigate federal, state, and local rules and regulations, and can help clients understand their various obligations under rules and regulations, maintain compliance with regulations, and in the event of an adverse administrative ruling or agency enforcement action, appeal the action, and depending on the outcome of the appeal, escalate the appeal to Court.

If you or your business are facing uncertainty or a dispute with a state or federal agency, contact JFM Law today to schedule a consultation to discuss your options.


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