Hard-Look Doctrine Law and Legal Definition

Hard-Look Doctrine is a principle of Administrative law that says a court should carefully review an administrative-agency decision to ensure that the agencies have genuinely engaged in reasoned decision making. A court is required to intervene if it “becomes aware, especially from a combination of danger signals, that the agency has not really taken a ‘hard look’ at the salient problems.” The Administrative Procedure Act instructs federal courts to invalidate agency decisions that are “arbitrary” or “capricious.” Close judicial scrutiny helps to discipline agency decisions and to constrain the illegitimate exercise of discretion. The hard look doctrine is simply a reflection of the courts' view of how an effective and meaningful process of judicial review should be conducted.