Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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Palantir filed a pre-award bid protest, challenging the Army’s solicitation for Distributed Common Ground System-Army Increment 2 (DCGS-A2), the Army’s primary system for processing and disseminating multisensor intelligence and weather information. The solicitation seeks a single contractor to be the system data architect, developer, and integrator of DCGS-A2. Palantir’s complaint alleges that the Army violated the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act (FASA) 10 U.S.C. 2377(c) by failing to determine whether its needs could be met by commercial items before issuing the contested solicitation. The Claims Court agreed. The Federal Circuit affirmed the entry of an injunction, rejecting arguments that the trial court erroneously added requirements to section 2377, including that the Army was required to “fully investigate,” “fully explore,” “examine,” and “evaluate” whether all or part of its requirements could be satisfied by commercially available items, such as Palantir’s product. FASA requires an agency to use the results of market research to “determine” whether there are commercial items that “meet the agency’s requirements; could be modified to meet the agency’s requirements; or could meet the agency’s requirements if those requirements were modified to a reasonable extent.” While the trial court’s thorough opinion sometimes uses words other than “determine,” read in context, those words were intended to be synonymous with “determine.” View "Palantir USG, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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Miller served in the government's military and civilian sectors before retiring. Because he became an “employee” before October 1982, Miller’s credit for military service can count toward the calculation of his civil service retirement annuity, subject to 5 U.S.C. 8332(c)(2). An annuitant who does not satisfy the requirements of section 8332(c)(2)(A)–(B) but wishes to count military service toward civil service retirement must waive his military retired pay for that period and, in some circumstances, pay a deposit. 5 C.F.R. 831.301(c). The Merit Systems Protection Board affirmed the Office of Personnel Management determination of the periods of Miller’s government service that were “creditable” for calculating his civil service retirement annuity. The Federal Circuit concluded that the Board erred in its decision with respect to Periods One and Two, but upheld its decision with respect to Period Three. For concurrent military and civilian service in Period One, Miller is entitled to credit toward both his military and civilian retirement. Substantial evidence does not support the Board’s finding that Miller was in leave-without-pay status during Period Two; he was in a concurrent service situation and is entitled to have Period Two credited as civilian service. Miller is deemed to have had no civilian service during Period Three and has not made a deposit or waived his military retirement pay for this period. View "Miller v. Office of Personnel Management" on Justia Law

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Pay for doctors employed at VA hospitals, consisting of base pay, market pay, and performance pay is governed by 38 U.S.C. 7431. A pay panel meets at least every two years to determine market compensation for an individual physician and must consider new pay tables, issued by the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). Two women physicians at the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System were hired in 2008 for an annual pay of $195,000, slightly less than the maximum allowed by the pay table. One year later, their base pay increased. As of November 2010, both were due for adjustments to market pay. In December 2010, VHA initiated a pay freeze. In 2012, each doctor filed an EEOC complaint, identifying male doctors whom they alleged were similarly situated and were being paid more. An EEOC officer concluded that they could not prove that the reasons for the salary differences were pretextual or resulted from unlawful discrimination. The pay freeze continued until December 2013. Both doctors then received base increases according to their longevity and received market pay increases to make their compensation “more in line with other emergency department physicians.” Each was restored to the middle of the salary spread. The doctors sued under the Equal Pay Act The Claims Court did not analyze whether they had established a prima facie case of salary discrimination, holding that they had not shown that discrimination was the reason for a male physician’s raise one year after being hired or for delays in processing their raises in time to avoid the pay freeze. The Federal Circuit affirmed. The doctors presented no evidence that the pay differential was based on sex, either historically or presently. View "Gordon v. United States" on Justia Law

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Scotty, born in 1979 at Madigan Army Medical Center, suffered injuries during childbirth, resulting in brain damage, cerebral palsy, seizures, and blindness, necessitating ongoing, around-the-clock care. The Shaws sued and agreed to a settlement, which stated that payments described in paragraph 5 and the purchase of annuities described in paragraph 6 “shall constitute a complete release.” Paragraph 5 provided that the government would pay: $500,000 to the Shaws; $500,000 to Scotty's medical trust; $850,000 to the Shaws’ attorneys; and, for the purchase of annuities to provide payments set forth in paragraph 6, $2,950,000.00. Paragraph 6 set forth the terms for the annuities. Four annuities are at issue: one each for Mr. and Ms. Shaw, one for the guardianship for the benefit of Scotty, and one for the medical trust. The government made each of the specified payments, including $2,846,095 to purchase the annuities. The agreement stated that payments from the annuities for Mr. and Ms. Shaw “are guaranteed for a period of twenty (20) years.” Paragraph 7 noted that the “settlement is contingent on a total, final cost of $4,800,000.00.” The annuities were purchased from ELNY, which later encountered financial difficulties and entered into court-ordered liquidation in 2012. The Shaws's annuity payments were reduced by 20%; payments to the guardianship and the medical trust were reduced by 62.4%. The Shaws sued. The Federal Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the government, which was obligated to guarantee the annuity payments only for the first 20 years. The reduction in payments began after that period. The Shaws lacked standing to sue on behalf of the medical trust. View "Shaw v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Missouri River overlies the western boundary of South Dakota's Crow Creek Indian Reservation, established in 1863. Under the Supreme Court’s 1908 “Winters” decision, the creation of a Reservation carries an implied right to unappropriated water “to the extent needed to accomplish the purpose of the reservation.” The Tribe possesses “Winters rights.” The Tribe sued, seeking $200 million in damages for the taking of its water rights. The complaint notes the federal Pick-Sloan flood control project on the River, with construction of the Fort Randall and Big Bend Dams; a 1996 statute that established a trust fund for the Tribe, funded with $27.5 million in hydroelectric-power revenue from Pick-Sloan; a 2012 settlement between the Tribe and the government, unrelated to water rights; and the generally poor economic prospects of the Reservation; it alleged that the government breached its fiduciary duty to “[a]ppropriately manag[e] the natural resources" of the Reservation, 25 U.S.C. 162a(d)(8). The complaint did not allege that the government’s actions deprived the Tribe of sufficient water to fulfill the reservation’s purposes or that those actions would cause the Tribe to lack sufficient water in the future. The Claims Court dismissed, stating that the complaint did not suggest that the Tribe is experiencing a water shortage and that it could not identify an injury "that has yet occurred.” The Federal Circuit affirmed, concluding that the Tribe failed to even allege that it has suffered the requisite injury in fact. View "Crow Creek Sioux Tribe v. United States" on Justia 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