411 U.S. 138 (1973), 72-864, Camp v. Pitts

Docket Nº:No. 72-864
Citation:411 U.S. 138, 93 S.Ct. 1241, 36 L.Ed.2d 106
Party Name:Camp v. Pitts
Case Date:March 26, 1973
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 138

411 U.S. 138 (1973)

93 S.Ct. 1241, 36 L.Ed.2d 106




No. 72-864

United States Supreme Court

March 26, 1973




The appropriate standard for judicial review of a decision by the Comptroller of the Currency denying a national bank charter is whether his adjudication was "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion or otherwise not in accordance with law." The District Court is to review the administrative record already in existence, supplemented if necessary by affidavits or testimony amplifying the reason for the Comptroller's decision, and is not authorized by the National Bank Act or the Administrative Procedure Act to conduct a de novo hearing in which the "substantial evidence" test is to be applied. Cf. Citizens to Preserve Overton Park v. Volpe, 401 U.S. 402.

Certiorari granted; 463 F.2d 632, vacated and remanded.

Per curiam opinion.


In its present posture this case presents a narrow but substantial question with respect to the proper procedure to be followed when a reviewing court determines that an administrative agency's stated justification for informal action does not provide an adequate basis for judicial review.

In 1967, respondents submitted an application to the Comptroller of the Currency for a certificate authorizing them to organize a new bank in Hartsville, South Carolina. See 12 U.S.C. § 27; 12 CFR § 4.2 (1972). On the basis of information received from a national bank examiner and from various interested parties, the Comptroller denied the application and notified respondents of his decision through a brief letter, which stated in part: "[W]e have concluded that the factors in support of the establishment of a new National Bank in this area

Page 139

are not favorable." No formal hearings were required by the controlling statute or guaranteed by the applicable regulations, although the latter provided for hearings when requested and when granted at the discretion of the Comptroller.1 Respondents did not request a formal hearing, but asked for reconsideration. That request was granted, and a supplemental field examination was conducted, whereupon the Comptroller again denied the application, this time stating in a letter that "we were unable to reach a favorable conclusion as to the need factor," and explaining that conclusion to some extent.2 Respondents then brought an action in federal district court seeking review of the Comptroller's decision. The entire administrative record was placed before the court, and, upon an examination of that record and of the two letters of explanation, the court granted summary judgment against respondents, holding that de novo review was not warranted in the circumstances and finding that, "although the Comptroller may have erred, there is substantial basis for his determination, and . . . it was neither capricious nor arbitrary." 329 F.Supp. 1302, 1308. On appeal, the Court of Appeals did not reach [93 S.Ct. 1243] the merits. Rather, it held that the Comptroller's ruling

Page 140

was "unacceptable" because "its basis" was not stated with sufficient clarity to permit judicial review. 463 F.2d 632, 633. For the present, the Comptroller does not challenge this aspect of the court's decision. He does, however, seek review here of the procedures that the Court of Appeals specifically ordered to be followed in the District Court on remand. The court held that the case should be remanded "for a trial de novo before the District Court" because "the Comptroller has twice inadequately and inarticulately resolved the [respondents'] presentation." The court further specified that in the District Court, respondents "will open the trial with proof of their application and compliance with the statutory inquiries, and proffer of any other relevant evidence." Then, "[t]estimony may . . . be adduced by the Comptroller or intervenors manifesting opposition, if any, to the new bank." On the basis of the record thus made, the District Court was instructed to make its own findings of fact and conclusions of law in order to determine "whether the [respondents] have shown by a preponderance of evidence that the Comptroller's ruling is capricious or an abuse of discretion." 463 F.2d at 634.

We agree with the Comptroller that the trial procedures thus outlined by the Court of Appeals for the remand in this case are unwarranted under present law.

Unquestionably, the Comptroller's action is subject to judicial review under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. § 701. See Association of Data Processing Service Organizations v. Camp, 397 U.S. 150, 156-158 (1970). But it is also clear that neither...

To continue reading