Delegation Doctrine Law and Legal Definition

The Delegation doctrine is a principle limiting Congress's ability to transfer its legislative power to another governmental branch, especially the executive branch. This is based on the separation-of-powers concept. It says that the power to declare whether or not there shall be a law, to determine the general policy to be achieved by the law, and to fix the limits within the limits within which the law shall operate is vested by the constitution in the legislature and it shall not be delegated. Therefore any statute conferring excessive legislative power is invalid because it is unconstitutional to delegate powers. Delegation is permitted only if Congress prescribes clear and adequate standards to guide an executive agency in making the policy.

All states whose constitutions contain a separation of powers doctrine have adopted some version of the delegation doctrine, which permits the legislature to delegate the administration of the law, to non legislative entities, such as administrative agencies. Thus, the delegation doctrine allows the legislature to focus on the fundamentals of a law leaving to the agencies the task of filling in the gaps by promulgating rules to administer the law. However, if legislation does not provide adequate standards for the agency charged with the task of filling in the legislative gaps, courts can invalidate the legislation.