Code of Virginia

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Code of Virginia
Title 2.2. Administration of Government
Chapter 40. Administrative Process Act

Article 5. Court Review.

§ 2.2-4025. Exemptions operation of this article; limitations.

A. This article shall not apply to any agency action that (i) is placed beyond the control of the courts by constitutional or statutory provisions expressly precluding court review, (ii) involves solely the internal management or routine of an agency, (iii) is a decision resting entirely upon an inspection, test, or election save as to want of authority therefor or claim of arbitrariness or fraud therein, (iv) is a case in which the agency is acting as an agent for a court, or (v) encompasses matters subject by law to a trial de novo in any court.

B. The provisions of this article, however, shall apply to case decisions regarding the grant or denial of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Medicaid, food stamps, general relief, auxiliary grants, or state-local hospitalization. However, no appeal may be brought regarding the adequacy of standards of need and payment levels for public assistance and social services programs. Notwithstanding the provisions of § 2.2-4027, the review shall be based solely upon the agency record, and the court shall be limited to ascertaining whether there was evidence in the agency record to support the case decision of the agency acting as the trier of fact. If the court finds in favor of the party complaining of agency action, the court shall remand the case to the agency for further proceedings. The validity of any statute, regulation, standard or policy, federal or state, upon which the action of the agency was based shall not be subject to review by the court. No intermediate relief shall be granted under § 2.2-4028.

1975, c. 503, §§ 9-6.14:4.1, 9-6.14:15, 9-6.14:16; 1986, c. 615; 1989, cc. 677, 734; 2001, c. 844; 2002, c. 747.

§ 2.2-4026. Right, forms, venue; date of adoption or readoption for purposes of appeal.

A. Any person affected by and claiming the unlawfulness of any regulation or party aggrieved by and claiming unlawfulness of a case decision and whether exempted from the procedural requirements of Article 2 (§ 2.2-4006 et seq.) or 3 (§ 2.2-4018 et seq.) shall have a right to the direct review thereof by an appropriate and timely court action against the agency or its officers or agents in the manner provided by the Rules of Supreme Court of Virginia. Actions may be instituted in any court of competent jurisdiction as provided in § 2.2-4003, and the judgments of the courts of original jurisdiction shall be subject to appeal to or review by higher courts as in other cases unless otherwise provided by law. In addition, when any regulation or case decision is the subject of an enforcement action in court, it shall also be reviewable by the court as a defense to the action, and the judgment or decree therein shall be appealable as in other cases.

B. In any court action under this section by a person affected by and claiming the unlawfulness of any regulation on the basis that an agency failed to follow any procedure for the promulgation or adoption of a regulation specified in this chapter or in such agency's basic law, the burden shall be upon the party complaining of the agency action to designate and demonstrate the unlawfulness of the regulation by a preponderance of the evidence. If the court finds in favor of the party complaining of the agency action, the court shall declare the regulation null and void and remand the case to the agency for further proceedings.

C. Notwithstanding any other provision of law or of any executive order issued under this chapter, with respect to any challenge of a regulation subject to judicial review under this chapter, the date of adoption or readoption of the regulation pursuant to § 2.2-4015 for purposes of appeal under the Rules of Supreme Court shall be the date of publication in the Register of Regulations.

1975, c. 503, § 9-6.14:16; 1986, c. 615; 1989, cc. 677, 734; 2001, c. 844; 2014, c. 699; 2016, c. 359.

§ 2.2-4027. Issues on review.

The burden shall be upon the party complaining of agency action to designate and demonstrate an error of law subject to review by the court. Such issues of law include: (i) accordance with constitutional right, power, privilege, or immunity, (ii) compliance with statutory authority, jurisdiction limitations, or right as provided in the basic laws as to subject matter, the stated objectives for which regulations may be made, and the factual showing respecting violations or entitlement in connection with case decisions, (iii) observance of required procedure where any failure therein is not mere harmless error, and (iv) the substantiality of the evidentiary support for findings of fact. The determination of such fact issue shall be made upon the whole evidentiary record provided by the agency if its proceeding was required to be conducted as provided in § 2.2-4009 or 2.2-4020 or, as to subjects exempted from those sections, pursuant to constitutional requirement or statutory provisions for opportunity for an agency record of and decision upon the evidence therein.

In addition to any other judicial review provided by law, a small business, as defined in subsection A of § 2.2-4007.1, that is adversely affected or aggrieved by final agency action shall be entitled to judicial review of compliance with the requirements of subdivision A 2 of § 2.2-4007.04 and § 2.2-4007.1 within one year following the date of final agency action.

When the decision on review is to be made on the agency record, the duty of the court with respect to issues of fact shall be to determine whether there was substantial evidence in the agency record to support the agency decision. The duty of the court with respect to the issues of law shall be to review the agency decision de novo. The court shall enter judgment in accordance with § 2.2-4029.

Where there is no agency record so required and made, any necessary facts in controversy shall be determined by the court upon the basis of the agency file, minutes, and records of its proceedings under § 2.2-4007.01 or 2.2-4019 as augmented, if need be, by the agency pursuant to order of the court or supplemented by any allowable and necessary proofs adduced in court except that the function of the court shall be to determine only whether the result reached by the agency could reasonably be said, on all such proofs, to be within the scope of the legal authority of the agency.

Whether the fact issues are reviewed on the agency record or one made in the review action, the court shall take due account of the presumption of official regularity, the experience and specialized competence of the agency, and the purposes of the basic law under which the agency has acted.

1975, c. 503, § 9-6.14:17; 1989, c. 601; 2001, c. 844; 2005, cc. 619, 682; 2007, cc. 873, 916; 2013, c. 619.

§ 2.2-4028. Intermediate relief.

When judicial review is instituted or is about to be, the agency concerned may, on request of any party or its own motion, postpone the effective date of the regulation or decision involved where it deems that justice so requires. Otherwise the court may, on proper application and with or without bond, deposits in court, or other safeguards or assurances as may be suitable, issue all necessary and appropriate process to postpone the effective dates or preserve existing status or rights pending conclusion of the review proceedings if the court finds the same to be required to prevent immediate, unavoidable, and irreparable injury and that the issues of law or fact presented are not only substantial but that there is probable cause for it to anticipate a likelihood of reversible error in accordance with § 2.2-4027. Actions by the court may include (i) the stay of operation of agency decisions of an injunctive nature or those requiring the payment of money or suspending or revoking a license or other benefit and (ii) continuation of previous licenses in effect until timely applications for renewal are duly determined by the agency.

1975, c. 503, § 9-6.14:18; 2001, c. 844.

§ 2.2-4029. Court judgments.

Unless an error of law as defined in § 2.2-4027 appears, the court shall dismiss the review action or affirm the agency regulation or decision. Otherwise, it may compel agency action unlawfully and arbitrarily withheld or unreasonably delayed except that the court shall not itself undertake to supply agency action committed by the basic law to the agency. Where a regulation or case decision is found by the court not to be in accordance with law under § 2.2-4027, the court shall suspend or set it aside and remand the matter to the agency for further proceedings, if any, as the court may permit or direct in accordance with law.

1975, c. 503, § 9-6.14:19; 2001, c. 844.

§ 2.2-4030. Recovery of costs and attorney fees from agency.

A. In any civil case brought under Article 5 (§ 2.2-4025 et seq.) or § 2.2-4002, 2.2-4006, 2.2-4011, or 2.2-4018, in which any person contests any agency action, such person shall be entitled to recover from that agency, including the Department of Wildlife Resources, reasonable costs and attorney fees if such person substantially prevails on the merits of the case and (i) the agency's position is not substantially justified, (ii) the agency action was in violation of law, or (iii) the agency action was for an improper purpose, unless special circumstances would make an award unjust. The award of attorney fees shall not exceed $25,000.

B. Nothing in this section shall be deemed to grant permission to bring an action against an agency if the agency would otherwise be immune from suit or to grant a right to bring an action by a person who would otherwise lack standing to bring the action.

C. Any costs and attorney fees assessed against an agency under this section shall be charged against the operating expenses of the agency for the fiscal year in which the assessment is made and shall not be reimbursed from any other source.

1981, c. 446, § 9-6.14:21; 1997, c. 692; 2001, c. 844; 2016, c. 625; 2020, c. 958.