Agency Practice Act
5 U.S.C. § 500 (2012), originally enacted by Pub. L. No. 89-332, 79 Stat. 1281, Nov. 8, 1965; incorporated into the U.S. Code by Pub. L. No. 90-83, 81 Stat. 195, Sept. 11, 1967 (with minor stylistic changes); amended by Pub. L. No. 106-113, Div. B, § 1000(a)(9) [Title IV, § 4732(b)(2)], Nov. 29, 1999, 113 Stat. 1536, 1501A-583.
The Agency Practice Act provides that an attorney in good standing in any state may represent persons before federal agencies. However, an agency may require an attorney to file a written declaration of current qualification and to state that he is authorized to represent the particular person before the agency. Similarly, a duly qualified certified public accountant may represent persons before the Internal Revenue Service. The Agency Practice Act was intended to prohibit agency-established admission requirements for licensed attorneys and special enrollment requirements for CPAs. The Agency Practice Act neither grants nor denies other persons the right to practice before an agency, nor does it authorize or limit an agency’s right to discipline or disbar persons practicing before it. The Patent and Trademark Office is exempted from the Agency Practice Act with respect to patent matters.
In 1982, ACUS adopted a statement on discipline of attorneys practicing before federal agencies. After studying agency concerns and existing disciplinary procedures, ACUS concluded that any current problems concerning attorney discipline before federal agencies were not of such magnitude or so widespread as to require legislative action or the adoption of uniform federal standards.
In 1957, the Department of Justice recommended discontinuing the practice of many agencies that required attorneys to apply for agency acceptance as practitioners. Several bills were introduced in the early 1960s to abolish agency admission requirements. By 1965, few agencies retained admission requirements, and only the Treasury Department and the Patent Office objected to discontinuing them. H.R. Rep. No. 1141 (1965). Pub. L. No. 89-332 was enacted in 1965 with the passage of S. 1758.
In 1999, the Agency Practice Act was amended to substitute “Patent and Trademark Office” for “Patent Office.”
The House report on S. 1758 is reprinted in U.S. Code Congressional and Administrative News. Professor Michael Cox’s 1982 report to ACUS discusses federal agency attorney discipline and contains an extensive bibliography.
Legislative History and Congressional Documents
- S. Rep. No. 755 (1965).
- H.R. Rep. No. 1141 (1965).
ACUS Recommendations and Other Documents
- 79-7 Appropriate Restrictions on Participation by a Former Agency Official in Matters Involving the Agency.
- 86-1 Nonlawyer Assistance and Representation.
- 2021-9 Regulation of Representatives in Agency Adjudicative Proceedings.
- Statement on Discipline of Attorneys Practicing Before Federal Agencies, 47 Fed. Reg. 58210 (Dec. 30, 1982).
Books and Articles
- Craig H. Allen, Attorney Ethics and Agency Practice: Representing Clients in Coast Guard Marine Casualty Investigations, 22 J. Mar. L. & Com. 225 (1991).
- ABA, Report to the House of Delegates on Federal Agency Attorney Discipline (Aug. 1982).
- Comm. on Governmental Processes, Report Concerning Discipline of Attorneys Practicing Before Federal Agencies (1982) (report to ACUS).
- George M. Cohen, The Laws of Agency Lawyering, 84 Fordham L. Rev. 1963 (2016).
- George M. Cohen, Regulation of Representatives in Agency Adjudicative Proceedings (Dec. 3, 2021) (report to ACUS).
- Michael P. Cox, Regulation of Attorneys Practicing Before Federal Agencies (1982) (report to ACUS).
- Roberta S. Karmel, Rule 2(e)—A Reprise, 210 N.Y. L.J. 3 (1993).
- Melanie B. Leslie, Government Officials as Attorneys and Clients: Why Privilege the Privileged?, 77 Ind. L. J. 469 (2002).
- Nicholas M. Wenner, Comment, Determining Secondary Liability under Securities Laws: Attorney Beware!, 11 Hamline L. Rev. 61 (1988).
- Agriculture (7 C.F.R. § 1.26)
- Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (12 C.F.R. § 1081.107)
- Commodity Futures Trading Commission:
- Consumer Product Safety Commission (16 C.F.R. Part 1025, Subpt. G)
- Drug Enforcement Administration (Justice)
- Energy (10 C.F.R. § 1003.3)
- Environmental Protection Agency:
- Farm Credit Administration:
- Federal Aviation Administration (Transportation) (14 C.F.R. § 13.33)
- Federal Communications Commission:
- Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (12 C.F.R. § 308.6)
- Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (18 C.F.R. Part 385 Subpt. U)
- Federal Housing Finance Agency (12 C.F.R. Part 1209)
- Federal Maritime Commission (46 C.F.R. Part 502, Subpt. B)
- Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission:
- Federal Reserve Board (12 C.F.R. § 263.6)
- Federal Trade Commission (16 C.F.R. § 4.1)
- Food and Drug Administration (21 C.F.R. § 12.40)
- General Services Administration (Board of Contract Appeals) (48 C.F.R. § 6101.5)
- Homeland Security (Immigration cases) (8 C.F.R. Part 292)
- Housing and Urban Development:
- Interior (43 C.F.R. Part 1)
- Internal Revenue Service:
- Justice (Immigration cases) (28 C.F.R. § 68.33(c))
- Maritime Administration (Transportation):
- Merit Systems Protection Board (5 C.F.R. § 1201.31)
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (Transportation) (49 C.F.R. Part 511, Subpt. H)
- National Labor Relations Board (29 C.F.R. § 102.177)
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Commerce) (15 C.F.R. § 904.5)
- National Science Foundation (45 C.F.R. § 672.6)
- National Transportation Safety Board (49 C.F.R. § 821.6)
- Navy (JAG cases) (32 C.F.R. Part 776)
- Nuclear Regulatory Commission (10 C.F.R. § 2.314)
- Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission:
- Postal Rate Commission (39 C.F.R. § 3010.43)
- Postal Service (39 C.F.R. Part 951)
- Securities and Exchange Commission:
- Small Business Administration (13 C.F.R. § 134.208)
- Social Security Administration:
- Surface Transportation Board (Transportation) (49 C.F.R. Part 1103)
- Transportation, Office of the Secretary (Aviation proceedings) (14 C.F.R. § 302.416)
- Treasury (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms) (31 C.F.R. Part 8)
- United States International Trade Commission (19 C.F.R. § 201.15)
- United States Patent and Trademark Office (Trademark and other non-patent matters): (37 C.F.R. § 11.14)
- Veterans Affairs (Board of Veterans’ Appeals) (38 C.F.R. Part 14)
Agency Practice Act
Title 5 U.S. Code