Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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Horvath has been a Secret Service special agent since 2010. To compensate for his availability and overtime hours, Horvath receives a 25% enhancement to his base salary, Law Enforcement Availability Pay (LEAP), 5 U.S.C. 5545a(h)(1). Horvath is additionally entitled to overtime compensation for some––but not all––of the overtime hours he works. For scheduled overtime, employees receiving LEAP are compensated for work in excess of 10 hours on a day during such investigator’s basic 40-hour workweek; or on a day outside such investigator’s basic 40-hour workweek. All other overtime––scheduled or unscheduled––is considered to be compensated by LEAP rather than by additional hourly wages. There is an exception for performing certain duties, including the protective services, for which employees are compensated for all scheduled overtime. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) regulations add: the exception applies only if “[t]he investigator performs on that same day at least 2 consecutive hours of overtime work that are not scheduled in advance of the administrative workweek and are compensated by availability pay,” 5 C.F.R. 550.111(f)(2)(ii). Horvath sued, seeking back pay. Horvath asserted that the OPM regulations improperly required that certain overtime hours be worked consecutively in order to trigger compensation. The Claims Court found that it lacked jurisdiction to consider some claims and that others failed to state a claim. The Federal Circuit reversed in part, finding that the challenged regulations are contrary to the unambiguous meaning of the statute, but otherwise affirmed. View "Horvath v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Inholders own patented mining and homestead claims within the Santa Fe National Forest. The 2011 Las Conchas Fire caused widespread destruction of vegetation within the forest. Forest Roads 89 and 268, which the Inholders had used to access their properties, were severely damaged by subsequent flooding. The Forest Service notified them that the roads were “impassible” and that it would provide them with limited access: “a combination of driving and hiking over specific routes and under specific weather conditions.” Later, the Service sent a letter stating that “public safety would be highly threatened by use of” the roads; that it would close the roads to public access for the foreseeable future; that because of continuing terrain instability, any reconstruction would likely be destroyed by future flooding; and, even if reconstruction were possible, the Service could not justify expending public funds when there is no general public need. The Service suggested that the Inholders work “collectively” to reconstruct the roads. The Inholders claimed that they held statutorily-granted easements. The USDA disagreed, citing 90 Stat. 2743, but acknowledged that the Inholders had a right to access their properties, “subject to reasonable regulations.” The Inholders claimed a compensable taking. The Federal Circuit affirmed the Claims Court’s dismissal, finding that the Inholders had not adequately pled a physical taking and that any regulatory taking claim was not ripe because the Inholders had not applied for a permit to reconstruct the roads. View "Martin v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Claims Court entered judgment in favor of Starry on its bid protest claim, concluding that the Department of Health and Human Services acted arbitrarily and capriciously in canceling its solicitation seeking to procure certain business operations services. The Claims Court thereafter awarded Starry attorney fees at the rates actually billed to Starry by its counsel, finding that the “extreme measures that [Starry] was forced to pursue to vindicate its right to a rational and lawful federal procurement process, combined with the shocking disregard of the truth by” HHS, constituted a “special factor” justifying an award of fees above the EAJA’s “default rate” of $125 per hour. EAJA, the Equal Access to Justice Act, 28 U.S.C. 2412(d)(2)(A), provides that when a trial court finds that a “special factor” exists, it is authorized to increase the statutory attorney fee rate in certain cases brought by or against the government. The Federal Circuit vacated the award, holding that the Claims Court erred as a matter of law in holding that an agency’s improper or dilatory conduct during the administrative process that gave rise to the litigation between the parties can constitute a “special factor.” EAJA does not contain any reference to prelitigation activities. View "Starry Associates, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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Williams and Winns, former employees of the U.S. Postal Service, were removed from their positions and separately sought review by the Merit Systems Protection Board. The Federal Circuit affirmed the Board’s dismissal of their cases. Only certain federal employees, as defined by statute, can seek review at the Board; neither individual qualified as an “employee” with appeal rights under 5 U.S.C. 7511(a)(1)(B)(ii). The statute states that “‘employee’ means . . . a preference eligible in the excepted service who has completed 1 year of current continuous service in the same or similar positions . . . in the United States Postal Service.” Office of Personnel Management regulations define “current continuous employment” as “a period of employment or service immediately preceding an adverse action without a break in Federal civilian employment of a workday.” The statute is not intended to cover an individual who was employed through a series of temporary appointments; each man took a break of several days between appointments. The court also rejected Williams’s argument that he retained appeal rights from a prior appointment because the Postal Service did not advise him on the loss of appeal rights that would result from his reappointment to a new position. View "Williams v. Merit Systems Protection Board" on Justia Law

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Acree served on active duty in the Navy from 1985-1989 and 2007-2008. He was deployed to Iraq and received Seabee Combat Warfare Medals. Acree was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) while serving in Iraq. After leaving the service, Acree filed several claims for service-connected disability benefits and appealed 11 claims to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. A representative from the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) organization was present with Acree at the board hearing. Acree said “yes” when asked to withdraw seven issues. The board listed the four issues that would be discussed and would “continue to be in appellate status” and asked the DAV representative whether it had “correctly identified the issues.” The representative responded: “Yes.” The board remanded four and dismissed seven claims. Acree appealed, arguing that a veteran’s withdrawal of a claim “is not effective unless the withdrawal ‘is explicit, unambiguous, and done with a full understanding of the consequences’” and that since he “ha[d] a long history of taking psychotropic medications,” the hearing officer should have inquired as to his capacity to appreciate the consequences of dismissing the claims. The Veterans Court affirmed, citing the hearing transcript. The Federal Circuit vacated. Precedent (DeLisio) explicitly states that a withdrawal is effective only if undertaken with “a full understanding of the consequences of such action on the part of the [veteran].” The Veterans Court was required to make that determination even though a DAV representative was present. View "Acree v. O'Rourke" on Justia Law

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Alimanestianu, a U.S. citizen, was killed in the 1989 bombing of Flight 772 by the Abu Nidal Organization. The State Department determined that the Libyan government sponsored the bombing. Libya was protected from suit in the U.S. under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA); in 1996, FSIA was amended to permit claims for personal injury or death caused by acts of foreign sovereigns designated as state sponsors of terrorism, 28 U.S.C. 1605(a)(7). Libya had been designated in 1979. In 2002, the Alimanestianus and others sued Libya and obtained summary judgment in 2008, awarding $6.9 billion in total; the Alimanestianus received $1.297 billion. While the defendants appealed, the United States entered into a Claims Settlement Agreement with Libya. Libya agreed to deposit $1.5 billion into a humanitarian fund, $681 million of which was for claims by U.S. nationals for wrongful death or physical injury in pending case as “a full and final settlement.” The Foreign Claims Settlement Commission subsequently awarded the Alimanestianus $10 million. The Federal Circuit rejected a claim that vacating their judgment constituted a compensable taking. The court considered the Penn Central factors: the Executive has an overwhelming interest in conducting foreign affairs; the plaintiffs have no evidence that they had an investment-backed expectation in their claims and nonfinal judgment; plaintiffs’ claim that the Commission’s award was less than their nonfinal judgment does not refute that they received more than they would have without government action. View "Alimanesianu v. United States" on Justia Law

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Burris’s father served on active duty in Vietnam, 1969-1971, and was granted a permanent and total disability rating for schizophrenia effective 2000. Because of his father’s disability, Burris was eligible to receive Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA) benefits. In October 2010, Burris, then 35-years old, elected to receive retroactive benefits for a period 2002-2010. During a portion of that period, Burris was enrolled as an undergraduate student. Burris’s studies were interrupted in 2005 when his mother unexpectedly passed away. Burris became the primary caretaker for his father, who suffered from prostate cancer. Burris was unable to attend school until his DEA eligibility had expired. The VA denied Burris’s request for an extension of his eligibility period, citing VA regulations that prohibit extensions for dependents “beyond age 31,” 38 C.F.R. 21.3041(g)(1), (g)(2), 21.3043(b), and refused to reimburse Burris for educational expenses incurred 2002-2004 because DEA benefits cannot be paid for expenses incurred more than one year prior to the application date. The Board of Veterans’ Appeals and Veterans Court affirmed the denial of equitable relief. The Federal Circuit affirmed. The Veterans Court lacks jurisdiction to grant equitable relief in these circumstances, 38 U.S.C. 7261. View "Burris v. Wilkie" on Justia Law

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Saint Bernard Parish Government and other owners of real property in St. Bernard Parish or in the Lower Ninth Ward of the City of New Orleans sued under the Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. 1491(a)(1), alleging a taking. They claimed that the government was liable for flood damage to their properties caused by Hurricane Katrina and other hurricanes. Plaintiffs’ theory was that the government incurred liability because of government inaction, including the failure to properly maintain or to modify the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet (MRGO) channel, and government action (the construction and operation of the MRGO channel). The Claims Court found a taking occurred and awarded compensation. The Federal Circuit reversed. The government cannot be liable on a takings theory for inaction and the government action in constructing and operating MRGO was not shown to have been the cause of the flooding. The Claims Court failed to apply the correct legal standard, which required that the causation analysis account for government flood control projects that reduced the risk of flooding. View "St. Bernard Parish Government v. United States" on Justia Law

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In 2003, the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) was established to rule Iraq pending transfer of authority to the Iraqi Interim Government (IIG). CPA awarded Agility a Contract to operate warehouses, providing that “[t]he obligation under this contract is made with Iraqi funds.” Agility acknowledged the impending transfer of authority and CPA’s scheduled dissolution. CPA authorized the IIG Minister of Finance to delegate contract administration to CPA’s Program Management Office (PMO). CPA administered Development Fund for Iraq (DFI), composed of various sources, including revenue from sales of Iraqi petroleum and natural gas. The IIG Minister delegated contract-administration responsibility concerning DFI-funded contracts to the PMO but did not give PMO contracting authority. Subsequent Contract task orders obligated U.S. funds. A U.S. contracting officer (CO) determined that Agility owed the government $81 million due to overpayment. Separately, Agility unsuccessfully sought $47 million for unpaid fees. The Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals dismissed Agility's appeals for lack of jurisdiction under the Contract Disputes Act (CDA), 41 U.S.C. 7101–7109. The Federal Circuit affirmed. The Board’s CDA jurisdiction is limited to contracts “made by an ‘executive agency.’” CPA was not an executive agency under the CDA. CPA awarded the Contract and there was no evidence that it was novated or assigned to an executive agency. The government acted as a contract administrator, not as a contracting party. View "Agility Logistics Services Co., KSC v. Mattis" on Justia Law

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The FBI is the sole tenant in a building under a lease between Cleveland Assets and the General Services Administration (GSA) that began in 2002 and was to expire in 2012. The lease has been extended multiple times. GSA has paid a penalty rate of $44.72 per rentable square foot (PSF) since its expiration. GSA must seek the approval of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure before obligating funds on the lease, by sending a prospectus of the proposed facility, including “an estimate of the maximum cost.” GSA prepared a prospectus for the Cleveland FBI office and considered a range of rental values, finally approving a maximum proposed rate of $26.00 PSF and an escalation clause for inflation. Both congressional committees approved the rate. GSA’s 2016 Request for Lease Proposals cited the "Congressionally-imposed rent limitation” of $26.00 PSF. Cleveland Assets sued, claiming that the Request exceeded GSA’s authority to solicit offers and that the rental cap was unreasonably low, imposed an undue restriction on competition, and shifted all risk to the contractor. The Federal Circuit affirmed dismissal by the Claims Court. The authorization statute, 40 U.S.C. 3307, is an appropriation, not a procurement, statute, so the challenge is not subject to Tucker Act jurisdiction. GSA’s choice of the maximum rental rate was not arbitrary or lacking a rational basis. View "Cleveland Assets, LLC v. United States" on Justia Law