Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Federal Circuit Holds Suits Seeking Monetary Rewards from the Government Must be Heard in Court of Federal Claims Under the Tucker Act

BNA’s U.S. Law Week, Vol. 75, No. 35 (Mar. 20, 2007), recently reported on the case Suburban Mortgage Associates Inc. v. Department of Housing and Urban Development, --- F.3d ----, 2007 WL 725715 (Fed. Cir. Mar. 12, 2007). Here is an excerpt from that case:

This case requires us to reexamine the jurisdictional boundary between the Tucker Act and the Administrative Procedure Act, as that boundary is understood in the light of the Supreme Court's decision in Bowen v. Massachusetts. The case began as a dispute between plaintiff Suburban Mortgage Associates, Inc. ("Suburban"), and defendants, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD") et al. ("Government"), with regard to a contract for insurance. Plaintiff sued the Government in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The suit was cast in part as an action for specific performance of the contract and in part as a declaratory judgment action. The relief sought was to require the Government to perform its contract obligations so that Suburban Mortgage could get the money allegedly due it under the insurance agreement. The action quickly morphed into a dispute over what court had been authorized by Congress to hear the case: was it the district court (the plaintiff's choice) or was it the United States Court of Federal Claims (the Government's choice)?

. . .

In sum, when the plaintiff's claims, regardless of the form in which the complaint is drafted, are understood to be seeking a monetary reward from the Government, then, for the reasons explained, a straightforward analysis calls for determining whether the case falls within the jurisdiction of the Court of Federal Claims. If that court can provide an adequate remedy--if a money judgment will give the plaintiff essentially the remedy he seeks--then the proper forum for resolution of the dispute is not a district court under the APA but the Court of Federal Claims under the Tucker Act. There is no need at that point to even address the other APA limitations, the "money damages" and the "expressly or impliedly forbids" provisions. The three limitations function in the disjunctive; the application of any one is enough to deny a district court jurisdiction under the APA.

BNA subscribers may read the full report here.


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