Administrative Law and the Purpose of the Tenth Amendment

Unit 8: Administrative Law and the Purpose of the Tenth Amendment

Legal Methods and Process



Administrative law, the branch of law that stipulates rules and regulations for “organization, powers, and duties of administrative authorities, the legal requirements governing their operation, and the remedies available to those adversely affected by administrative action” (, 2019. Para. 1). Per Cornell Law School’s webpage, the Tenth Amendment avers that any powers not given to the United States by the Constitution…are respectfully reserved to the states or to the people (Cornell., n.d., Amendment X). Therefore, the Tenth Amendment governs the powers given to both the federal and the state governments and any violations, if found, may warrant administrative action to impose appropriate sanctions if necessary. The purpose of the Tenth Amendment was to define federal taxing and policing powers and stipulate federal regulations, as well as further stipulating that states retain the right to govern themselves as long as there is no conflict in federal government authority.

Tenth Amendment: Differentiation of Powers

State Powers v. Federal Powers

The Tenth Amendment sets forth the non-specified limits of power that is granted to the federal government as well as further clarification of our forefathers intent to maintain state government has the authority to rule on circumstances/cases by creating and enforcing laws directly related to maintaining the “welfare, public health, and safety” of every citizen who is a permanent resident in each state (Cornell., n.d., Police Powers). Constitutional limits regarding administrative law have and probably will always be a concern that stems back to the creation of certain rights , who referred to this as “the pursuit of happiness” in upholding the “new law of the land” established by the Civil War (Mellor and Neily., 2011, para. 11).

Although each state is given constitutional powers not delegated to the federal government nor prohibited by the states, there are no set limitations of the federal government. The Tenth Amendment merely ascertains that each state has the power to “establish and maintain their own laws and policies so long as they do not conflict with the authority of the federal government (Smentkowski., n.d., para. 3). With that being said, the Tenth Amendment defined powers to state governments post Civil War such as, “police powers” pertinent to health, education, and welfare of the people and were state-specific. It is noted that in 1869 Wyoming became the first state permitting women to vote because of the need for more women settlers, cause and effect example of allowing freedom of each state to create legislation appropriate to meet societal normalcy without conflicting with the enumerated powers of the federal government (Sagal., 2013, para. 3).

According to the FindLaw Legal Dictionary, the superior government (as of a state) supersedes an inferior government (as of a municipality) is stipulated in the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution (,2019., Dictionary). The Supremacy Clause is found in Article VI which ascertains that the federal law is the “supreme law of the land” and that courts in every state must comply with the Constitution, laws, and treaties of the federal government pertinent in matters under governmental control either directly or indirectly (, 2019. Article., para. 1). The landmark case of McCullough v Maryland established the concept of the federal government to have both express (enumerated) and implied authority not specified in the Constitution.

Although the United States Constitution enumerated powers that defines what is given to the federal government’s jurisdiction and the amendments further defines the legislative power given to each state, it appears to all boil down to the ever so known concept of “passing the buck”, but this is a personal opinion which many citizens share the same opinion as well. It also appears to be that in the end, federal law will prevail as the U.S. Supreme Court is the final say in majority of cases that reach that level once all appellate options have been exhausted.


Cornell Law School. (n.d.). Legal Information Instituted. Amendment X. Retrieved from

Cornell Law School. (n.d.). Legal Information Institute. Police Powers. Retrieved from, August 26). Administrative Law. Retrieved from, (2019). FindLaw Legal Dictionary. Preemption. Retrieved from

Meller, C., and Neily, C. (2011, April 20). Forbes. Why the Constitution’s Tenth Amendment Matters so Much. Retrieved from

Sagal, P., (2013). Constitution USA with Peter Sagal. State Powers. Retrieved from

Smentkowski, B.P., (2010, December 22). Encyclopedia Britannica. Tenth Amendment United States Constitution. Retrieved from