Camp v. Pitts 8212 864

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Citation93 S.Ct. 1241,36 L.Ed.2d 106,411 U.S. 138
Docket NumberNo. 72,72
PartiesWilliam B. CAMP, Comptroller of the Currency of the United States v. F. W. PITTS et al. —864
Decision Date26 March 1973

PER CURIAM.

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 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.' D.C., 329 F.Supp. 1302, 1308. On appeal, the Court of Appeals did not reach the merits. Rather, it held that the Comptroller's ruling was 'unacceptable' because 'its basis' was not stated with sufficient clarity to permit judicial review. 4 Cir., 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, Inc. v. Camp, 397 U.S. 150, 156—158, 90 S.Ct. 827, 831—832, 25 L.Ed.2d 184 (1970). But it is also clear that neither the National Bank Act nor the APA requires the Comptroller to hold a hearing or to make formal findings on the hearing record when passing on applications for new banking authorities. See 12 U.S.C. § 26; 5 U.S.C. § 557.3 Accordingly, the proper standard for judicial review of the Comptroller's adjudications is not the 'substantial evidence' test which is appropriate when reviewing findings made on a hearing record, 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(E). Nor was the reviewing court free to hold a de novo hearing under § 706(2)(F) and thereafter determine whether the agency action was 'unwarranted by the facts.' It is quite plain from our decision in Citizens to Preserve Overton Park v. Volpe, 401 U.S. 402, 91 S.Ct. 814, 28 L.Ed.2d 136 (1971), that de novo review is appropriate only where there are inadequate factfinding procedures in an adjudicatory proceeding, or where judicial proceedings are brought to enforce certain administrative actions. Id., at 415, 91 S.Ct., at 823. Neither situation applies here. The proceeding in the District Court was obviously not brought to enforce the Comptroller's decision, and the only deficiency suggested in agency action or proceedings is that the Comptroller inadequately explained his decision. As Overton Park demonstrates, however, that failure, if it occurred in this case, is not a deficiency in factfinding procedures such as to warrant the de novo hearing ordered in this case.

The appropriate standard for review was, accordingly, whether the Comptroller's adjudication was 'arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law,' as specified in 5 U.S.C. § 706(2) (A). In applying that standard, the focal point for judicial review should be the administrative record already in existence, not some new record made initially in the reviewing court. Respondents contend that the Court of Appeals did not envision a true de novo review and...

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