Legal Question in Administrative Law in District of Columbia

Federal Government

Can civillians sue the federal

government without consent of the

federal government.

Asked on 4/25/08, 1:38 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Jon van Horne Law Office of Jon W. van Horne

Re: Federal Government

Yes, but not for just anything. It is true that the sovereign cannot be sued without its consent, but the federal government by statute has consented to be sued in certain situations. There are three main areas of litigation permitted against the federal government.

The Federal Tort Claims Act (28 USC 2671 et seq) allows suits for various types of damages for such things as negligence by federal employees. There are specific limitations on the kinds of torts that come under the FTCA and there are administrative procedures that must be followed before going to court. FTCA cases are brought in federal district courts.

There is also a special court, the US Court of Federal Claims, which is established to hear law suits “founded either upon the Constitution, or any Act of Congress or any regulation of an executive department, or upon any express or implied contract with the United States.” (28 USC 1491) The Court has nationwide jurisdiction over most suits for monetary claims against the government and sits without a jury. The general jurisdiction of the Court is over claims for just compensation for the taking of private property, refund of federal taxes, military and civilian pay and allowances, and damages for breaches of contracts with the government, including bid protests. The Court also possesses jurisdiction over claims for patent and copyright infringement against the United States, as well as over certain suits by Indian tribes.

The Administrative Procedures Act is the law under which federal regulatory agencies create the rules and regulations necessary to implement and enforce major legislative acts. The Act provides for access to federal courts for persons “suffering legal wrong because of agency action, or adversely affected or aggrieved by agency action.” (5 USC 702) In federal district courts, the remedies in APA cases are generally limited to injunctive relief. APA actions are usually involved when citizens challenge the government’s environmental decisions.

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Answered on 4/25/08, 3:09 pm

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