The word arbitrary is derived from the Latin work arbitrarius, meaning the source of arbiter, who is the person who must judge a particular matter. In legal terms, an arbitrary judgment is a legal decision decided at the discretion of a judge, and is a decision that is not one that is fixed by law.
When a decision is arbitrary, it means that the decision is not based on judgment or reason but instead on discretion without any regard to standards or rules or personal will. It also implies a disregard of the evidence. In many circumstances, the term arbitrary implies an aspect of bad faith, and it sometimes may be taken as despotic or tyrannical.
In certain countries, a ban of arbitrariness is preserved into the constitution. For example, the Swiss Federal Constitution Article 9 theoretically supersedes even democratic judgments in barring arbitrary government action.
The United States Supreme Court has previously overturned laws for not having any “rational basis.” A study of the United States asylum system finds that arbitrariness in decisions may be the cause of extremely large differences in outcomes between various adjudicators, which is known as refugee roulette.
In the United States, there is an arbitrary and capricious legal standard which states that a lower court’s findings will not be disturbed or contradicted unless it did not have any reasonable basis. Likewise, a jury’s finding of a fact will rarely be disturbed during an appeal unless it is found to be arbitrary and capricious. This idea of arbitrary decisions also applies to a decision by a government agency on an administrative law.
In these arbitrary decisions, the previous ruling is considered invalid because of the fact that the ruling was based on unreasonable grounds or without proper consideration of the circumstances involved.
On a federal level and sometimes state level, non-elected officials in administrative agencies are given the authority to make rules, render decisions, and handle miscellaneous disputes. Here they must provide due process to the parties affected while complying with the procedures set by federal and state legislature.
These proceedings recognize the right of judicial review where citizens affected by the administrative body’s actions can ask for the actions to be reviewed by a judicial court. Standards have been created through state and federal legislature in order to prevent excess arbitrary decision making.
Congress tried to ensure this balance between protection of individual rights and giving agencies enough freedom to function through the Administrative Procedure Act. This act limited the range of judicial review of the court in question. It limited the scope of the court’s authority to decide whether an administrative agency made an arbitrary and capricious decision.
More specifically, the act said that the reviewing court must figure out whether the agency specified a rational connection between the facts and its decision. The court must also look at the record of the agency to ensure that the decision was based on a reasonable evaluation of the relevant facts.