arbitrary and capricious – a concept which permits a court to substitute its judgment for that of an administrative agency’s unreasonable decision which ignores the law or facts of the case

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arbitrary and capricious:

1. A reference to the concept in administrative law that permits a court to substitute its judgment for that of an administrative agency if the agency’s decision unreasonably ignores the law or the facts of the case. [3]


1. Depending on individual discretion; of, relating to, or involving a determination made without consideration of or regard for facts, circumstances, fixed rules, or procedures.

2. (Of a judicial decision) founded on prejudice or preference rather than on reason or fact.  *  This type of decision is often termed arbitrary and capricious.arbitrariness, n. [1]

1. According to notion or whim rather than according to law.  Despotic; without reason.  Fixed or arrived at through an exercise of will or by caprice, without consideration or adjustment with reference to principles, circumstance or significance. United States v Carmac, 329 US 230 91 L Ed 209, 67 S Ct 252.

A legislative classification of a group of persons is not arbitrary if is based on substantial difference between that group of persons and all other persons and such difference bears a property relation to the purposes of the statute. Krebs v Board of Trustees, 410 Ill 435, 102 NE2d 321, 27 ALR2d 1434. [2]

1. According to notion or whim rather than law; in accordance with personal wishes or one’s prejudices, and not on the basis of principles or reason. EXAMPLE: A clerk who refuses to issue a marriage license because he disapproves of the couple’s opinions about child-rearing acts in an arbitrary manner. [3]

arbitrary decision:

1. A decision rendered by a court, or judge, or other officer exercising judicial functions which is based upon the will of the officer alone, and not upon any course of reasoning and exercise of judgment. Mutual Ben. Life Ins. Co. v Welch, 71 Okla 59, 175 P 45, 49.

arbitrary discretion:

1. Unsound discretion; deciding by whim or caprice; discretion exercised for an erroneous reason. National Ben. Life Ins. Co v Shaw-Walker Co. 71 App DC 276, Ill F2d 497. [2]

Also see:

capricious (caprice) – contrary to the evidence or established rules of law; whimsical rather than logistic.


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[1]: Black’s Law Dictionary Deluxe Tenth Edition by Henry Campbell Black, Editor in Chief Bryan A. Garner. ISBN: 978-0-314-61300-4

[2]: Ballantine’s Law Dictionary with Pronunciations Third Edition by James A. Ballantine (James Arthur 1871-1949).  Edited by William S. Anderson.  © 1969 by THE LAWYER’S CO-OPERATIVE PUBLISHING COMPANY.  Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 68-30931

[3]:  Ballantine’s Law Dictionary Legal Assistant Edition
by Jack Ballantine 
(James Arthur 1871-1949).  Doctored by Jack G. Handler, J.D. © 1994 Delmar by Thomson Learning.  ISBN 0-8273-4874-6.


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