United States Court of Federal Claims

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The United States Court of Federal Claims (in case citations, Fed. Cl. or C.F.C.) is a United States federal court that hears monetary claims against the U.S. government. Founded in 1855 as the United States Court of Claims, it is one of the oldest federal courts in the country. Over 60% of the Fortune 100 companies have participated in cases before the court.

The jurisdiction of the United States Court of Federal Claims is currently codified in 28 U.S.C. § 1491. The court is established pursuant to Congress's authority under Article One of the United States Constitution. Unlike judges of courts established under Article Three of the United States Constitution, judges on the Court of Federal Claims do not have life tenure (see Article I and Article III tribunals). Instead they serve for 15-year terms[1] and are eligible for reappointment. The President appoints the judges of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims with the Senate's advice and consent.[2] The judges are removable by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit for "incompetency, misconduct, neglect of duty, engaging in the practice of law, or physical or mental disability." [3]

The court house of the Court of Federal Claims is situated in the Howard T. Markey National Courts Building (on Madison Place across from the White House) in Washington, D.C.. The Court of Federal Claims acts as a clearing house where the government must settle up with those it has legally wronged.

History[edit]

May of 1855, at Willard’s Hotel, the first meeting of the court took place. In July of that year it moved into the Capitol: After briefly using the Supreme Court’s chamber in the basement of the Capitol, it then acquired its own rooms there. In 1879, the Court moved to the ground floor of Freedman’s Bank, the location that is now occupied by the Treasury Annex, adjacent to the southeast corner of Lafayette Park. Later in 1899, the Court moved to the building across Lafayette Park at the intersection of 17th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. It remained there for 65 years.

The Court’s original composition of three judges was expanded to five in 1863. In 1925, legislation enacted by Congress at the request of the Court created a separate trial division of seven commissioners and elevated the five judges to an appellate role.

In 1948, the commissioners were authorized to make recommendations for conclusions of law. The number of commissioners was increased in 1953 to 15. In 1966, Congress provided that there would be seven appellate judges, to be appointed by the President with life tenure. In 1973, the title of the commissioners was changed to trial judge.

The Federal Courts Improvement Act of 1982 created the modern Court and, in 1992 the Claims Court name was changed to the United States Claims Court (in case citations, Cl. Ct.) and it is a successor to the trial division of the United States Court of Claims.[4] The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 gave the court the authority to create an Office of Special Masters to receive and hear certain vaccine injury cases, and the jurisdiction to review those cases.[5] On October 28, 1992, the name of the court was changed to the United States Court of Federal Claims.[6]

Though a provision of the Administrative Dispute Resolution Act of 1996 gave the Court of Federal Claims and U.S. districts courts concurrent jurisdiction over post-award protests, subsequent legislation provided that, as of January 2001, that the United States Court of Federal Claims would be the exclusive judicial forum for bid protest litigation.

In 2006, the court rendered judgments in more than 900 cases and awarded $1.8 billion in damages.

Jurisdiction[edit]

United States Court of Federal Claims on Madison Place in Washington, D.C.

The court has special jurisdiction, spelled out in 28 U.S.C. § 1491: it hears claims for monetary damages[7] that arise from the United States Constitution, federal statutes, executive regulations, or an express or implied in fact contract with the United States Government, most notably under the Tucker Act. The court has concurrent jurisdiction with U.S. district courts, when the claim is for less than $10,000, by the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1346. Claims have a statute of limitations of six years from the time the claim first accrues.[8] This limitation is strictly construed by the court.

The court has concurrent jurisdiction involving contracts with the federal government, where a contractor has the option of choosing between filing suit with the court or with the agency Board of Contract Appeals. The general rule is that a contractor may either 1) file suit within 90 days with the agency Board of Contract Appeals or 2) file suit within one year with the court. A contractor, however, must choose which forum in which to file; a contractor cannot file suit with both the agency Board and with the court. (However, in a case where a contractor has filed with the Board, and the Government challenges the timeliness of the filing — the 90-day limit is statutory and cannot be extended — the contractor can file with the court within the one-year period to protect its claims.)

Unlike district courts, which generally only have jurisdiction over disputes in their geographic district, the CFC has jurisdiction over disputes wherever they occur in the country. To accommodate litigants, judges on the court may hold trials at local courthouses near where the disputes arise.[9]

All trials at the court are bench trials, without juries. Because the court only hears cases against the Government, the United States is always the defendant in cases before the CFC.

The court receives a variety of claims against the government, including breach of contract claims, illegal exaction claims, takings claims under the 5th Amendment, claims involving military pay, claims for patent and copyright infringement against the government, federal tax refund claims, and protests regarding contract bidding procedures. According to the Court, tax refund suits make up a quarter of the claims brought before it, although the court exercise concurrent jurisdiction with United States district courts in this area.

Orders and judgments from the court are appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which resides in the same building as the CFC.

Congressional references[edit]

The court also may hear congressional reference cases, which are cases referred to the court by either house of Congress. The judge serving as hearing officer renders a report as to the case's merits, which is reviewed by a panel of judges formed for that purpose. The report is forwarded back to the chamber of Congress requesting it.[10]

Judges[edit]

Current judges[edit]

As of November 1, 2013 [11]

Judge Appointed Chief Appointed by
Patricia E. Campbell-Smith 2013 2013–Present[12] Obama (as judge and Chief Judge)
Marian Blank Horn 1986
2003
—— Reagan
G.W. Bush
Lawrence J. Block 2002 —— G.W. Bush
Susan G. Braden 2003 —— G.W. Bush
Charles F. Lettow 2003 —— G.W. Bush
Mary Ellen Coster Williams 2003 —— G.W. Bush
Victor J. Wolski 2003 —— G.W. Bush
Margaret M. Sweeney 2005 —— G.W. Bush
Thomas C. Wheeler 2005 —— G.W. Bush
Elaine D. Kaplan 2013 —— Obama
Vacant 2014–Present —— ——
Vacant 2014–Present —— ——
Vacant 2014–Present —— ——
Vacant 2014–Present —— ——
Vacant 2014–Present —— ——
Vacant 2014–Present —— ——

Vacancies and pending nominations[edit]

Seat last held by Vacancy reason Date of vacancy Nominee Date of nomination
Lynn J. Bush Senior Status October 21, 2013 Thomas L. Halkowski April 10, 2014
Francis M. Allegra Retirement October 21, 2013 Lydia Kay Griggsby April 10, 2014
Emily C. Hewitt Retirement October 21, 2013 Patricia M. McCarthy May 21, 2014
Edward J. Damich Retirement October 21, 2013 Armando Omar Bonilla May 21, 2014
Nancy B. Firestone Senior Status October 21, 2013 Nancy B. Firestone (reappointment) April 10, 2014
George W. Miller Retirement  ???? Jeri Kaylene Somers May 21, 2014

Senior judges[edit]

Past judges[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ 28 U.S.C. § 172
  2. ^ 28 U.S.C. § 171
  3. ^ 28 U.S.C. § 176(a)
  4. ^ (§105, §165 & §167, Federal Courts Improvement Act of 1982, P.L. 97-164, 96 Stat. 25, 50).
  5. ^ 42 U.S.C. § 300aa-12
  6. ^ Court History Brochure
  7. ^ Gregory C. Sisk, Michael F. Noone, Litigation with the Federal Government (2006), p. 246: "Even today, the traditional money claim under the Tucker Act remains the grist for the Court of Federal Claims mill. The Court of Federal Claims does not have general authority to grant equitable remedies, such as injunctions or specific performance in contract".
  8. ^ 28 U.S.C. § 2501
  9. ^ 28 USC § 2505: "Any judge of the United States Court of Federal Claims may sit at any place within the United States to take evidence and enter judgment".
  10. ^ 28 U.S.C. § 1492, 28 U.S.C. § 2509
  11. ^ "Judges - Biographies". US Court of Federal Claims. Retrieved 13 January 2014. 
  12. ^ "President Obama Designates Judge Patricia E. Campbell-Smith to Serve as Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims". The White House. Office of the Press Secretary. Retrieved 13 January 2014. 

Bibliography[edit]

  • The United States Court of Federal Claims handbook and procedures manual by David B. Stinson. 2nd ed. Washington, D.C.: Bar Association of the District of Columbia, 2003.
  • The United States Court of Federal Claims : a deskbook for practitioners by United States Court of Federal Claims Bar Association. 4th ed. Washington, D.C.: The Bar Association, 1998.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

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