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Discretion in Decision Making

Legislative Discretion, Executive Discretion, Judicial Discretion, Administrative Agency Discretion, Further Readings

Discretion is the power or right to make official decisions using reason and judgment to choose from among acceptable alternatives.

Legislatures, the president and the governors of the various states, trial and appellate judges, and administrative agencies are among the public officers and offices charged with making discretionary decisions in the discharge of public duties. All discretionary decisions made are subject to some kind of review and are also subject to reversal or modification if there has been an ABUSE OF DISCRETION.

An abuse of discretion occurs when a decision is not an acceptable alternative. The decision may be unacceptable because it is logically unsound, because it is ARBITRARY and clearly not supported by the facts at hand, or because it is explicitly prohibited by a statute or RULE OF LAW.

Discretion in decision making can be viewed from the perspective of the flexibility and choices granted to the decision maker based on the decision being made. Only the Constitution, through judicial enforcement, can limit discretionary decision making by legislative bodies to pass laws. Great flexibility is granted to the EXECUTIVE BRANCH in the area of foreign relations decision making. Statutes and prior judicial decisions limit the flexibility and discretion of a judge in a court of law. Moreover, Congress has granted broad decision-making authority to administrative agencies and their administrators, giving them great flexibility to make decisions within their area of concern.


Abuse of Discretion; Discovery.

Additional topics

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