Justia U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government Contracts

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The Federal Reserve Act of 1913 established a system that includes the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and 12 regional Reserve Banks. The Board exercises broad regulatory supervision over the Reserve Banks, which serve as banks to the U.S. government and to commercial banks who are members of the Federal Reserve System. The Act set the statutory rate for dividend payments on Federal Reserve Bank stock at six percent per year, which remained in effect until 2016, when an amendment (12 U.S.C. 289(a)(1)) effectively reduced the dividend rate for certain stockholder banks to a lower variable rate. Plaintiffs argued that banks that subscribed to Reserve Bank stock before the amendment are entitled to dividends at the six percent rate and that, by paying dividends at the amended rate, the government breached a contractual duty or effected a Fifth Amendment taking. The Federal Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. There is no “clear indication” of the government’s intent to contract in either the language of the Federal Reserve Act or the circumstances of its passage. Plaintiffs did not allege a legally cognizable property interest arising from its “statutory rights” and the requirement that member banks subscribe to reserve bank stock under the Act does not constitute a regulatory taking. View "American Bankers Association v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Moodys leased Pine Ridge Indian Reservation parcels for agriculture. The government has a trust responsibility for Indian agricultural lands, 25 U.S.C. 3701(2). The Secretary of the Interior is authorized to participate in the management of such lands, with the participation of the beneficial owners and has delegated some responsibilities to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). BIA regulations generally allow Indian landowners to enter into agricultural leases with BIA approval. Each Moody lease defined “the Indian or Indians” as the “LESSOR.” The Claims Court concluded that the Oglala Sioux Tribe signed the leases. Other lease provisions distinguished between the lease parties and the Secretary of the Interior/United States. Issues arose in 2012. The BIA sent letters canceling the leases, noting that the Moodys could appeal the decision to the Regional Director. Within the 30-day appeal period, the Moodys returned with a cashier’s check in the proper amount, which the BIA accepted. The BIA informed the Moodys that they need not appeal, could continue farming, and did not require written confirmation. Subsequently, the Moodys received trespass notices and were instructed to vacate, which they did. The Moodys did not appeal within the BIA but sued the government. The Federal Circuit affirmed the Claims Court’s dismissal of the written contract claims for lack of jurisdiction because the government was not a party to the leases, for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted because the Moodys did not have implied-in-fact contracts with the government, and for failure to raise a cognizable takings claim because their claim was based on the government’s alleged violation of applicable regulations. View "Moody v. United States" on Justia Law

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Under a 2011 contract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), HHL was to provide transportation services in Afghanistan. After the contract expired, HHL requested additional compensation based on alleged contract violations: suspension of work, changes to the contract requirements, and termination of the original contract. After various preliminary submissions, HHL submitted a “Request for Equitable Adjustment (REA)” with a sworn statement by HHL’s Deputy Managing Director having “full management [authority].” The submission requested that it be “treated as a[n] REA,” not as a claim, and requested $4,137,964 in compensation. HHL’s request was denied in what the contracting officer characterized as the “Government’s final determination in this matter.” The Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals concluded that it did not have jurisdiction because “[a]t no point, in six years of communication with the [USACE], has HHL requested a contracting officer’s final decision” under 41 U.S.C. 7103(a)(1). The Federal Circuit reversed and remanded, concluding that there was a request for a final decision by a contracting officer and a final decision entered by the contracting officer. A defect in the certification of a claim does not preclude jurisdiction over the claim; HHL can cure any issues with its certification on remand. View "Hejran Hejrat Co. Ltd v. United States Army Corps of Engineers" on Justia Law

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From 1943-1990, the government produced plutonium for nuclear weapons at Washington’s Hanford Site, leaving behind 56 million gallons of nuclear waste in underground tanks. In 2000, Bechtel was awarded a cost-plus-incentive-fee contract by the Department of Energy (DOE) for the design, construction, and operation of a Hanford nuclear waste treatment plant, incorporating provisions of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR). During the contract’s performance, two former Bechtel Hanford employees sued Bechtel under 42 U.S.C. 1981, alleging sexual and racial discrimination and retaliation. Bechtel settled these lawsuits and sought $500,000 in reimbursement from DOE for its defense costs. The settlement payments were covered by insurance. DOE provisionally approved Bechtel’s request and reimbursed Bechtel as requested. A contracting officer later disallowed the costs, citing Federal Circuit precedent, “Tecom” and stating that the government would offset the provisional reimbursement from future amounts owed to Bechtel. The Claims Court granted the government summary judgment, concluding that Tecom provided the proper standard. The Federal Circuit affirmed. The Bechtel contract incorporated FAR 31.201-2 and 52.222-26, the same provisions that barred reimbursement in Tecom. Under the Tecom standard, Bechtel’s defense costs related to the discrimination suits are only allowable if Bechtel can show that the former employees “had very little likelihood of success.” Bechtel did not challenge the contracting officer’s determination that the former employees’ claims had more than a very little likelihood of success. View "Bechtel National, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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Under the Medicare administrative contractor (MAC) program, 42 U.S.C. 1395kk1, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) use contractors to administer Medicare claims and benefits. CMS must use competitive procedures when entering into contracts with MACs, taking into account performance quality, price, and other factors. In 2010, CMS prepared solicitations to replace the original MAC contracts and implemented a policy in the solicitations for several jurisdictions, placing a limit on the amount of MAC contract responsibility that any single entity could win in a prime contractor capacity. CMS would not award more than 26% of the national A/B Medicare workload to any single contractor or more than 40% of the national A/B Medicare workload to any one set of affiliates. An “Exception” stated that, for the sake of continuity of service, CMS retained the discretion to award a particular prime contract to a particular contractor, even where doing so would exceed the policy workload. Because of the policy, with NGS’s current contracts, NGS cannot win the MAC contract for Jurisdiction H. NGS filed a pre-award protest. The Government Accountability Office rejected the protest. The Claims Court affirmed. The Federal Circuit reversed. The policy precludes “full and open competition through the use of competitive procedures,” 41 U.S.C. 3301(a)(1). Congress outlined the circumstances under which an agency may avoid the full and open competition requirement. The court rejected the government’s argument that the workload caps fall within an exception for “procurement procedures otherwise expressly authorized by statute.” View "National Government Services, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Virgin Islands is a U.S. territory that can set and receive proceeds from duties, Virgin Islands Port Authority (VIPA) is authorized to “determine, fix, alter, charge, and collect reasonable rates, fees, rentals, ship’s dues and other charges.” Since 1968, VIPA has set wharfage and tonnage fees for Virgin Islands ports. Customs collected those fees from 1969-2011, deducting its costs. The remaining funds were transferred to VIPA. In 1994, the Virgin Islands and Customs agreed to “the methodology for determining the costs chargeable to [the Virgin Islands] . . . for operating various [Customs] activities.” The agreement cited 48 U.S.C. 1469c, which provides: To the extent practicable, services, facilities, and equipment of agencies and instrumentalities of the United States Government may be made available, on a reimbursable basis, to the governments of the territories and possessions of the United States. Customs increased collection costs, which outpaced the collection of the disputed fees starting in 2004, leaving VIPA without any proceeds. After failed efforts to resolve the issue, VIPA notified Customs in February 2011, that VIPA would start to collect the fees in March 2011. VIPA sued Customs to recover approximately $ 10 million in disputed fees that Customs collected from February 2008 to March 1, 2011. The Federal Circuit affirmed a judgment in favor of Customs. Customs had authority to collect the disputed fees during the time at issue under the 1994 agreement, in combination with 48 U.S.C. 1469c. View "Virgin Islands Port Authority v. United States" on Justia Law

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Montano, a service-disabled veteran, owns 51% of VCG, which qualified as a service-disabled-veteran-owned small business (SDVOSB) under the VA system, 38 U.S.C. 8127(e)–(f), and appeared on the VetBiz database as eligible for set-aside contracts. VCG was the lowest bidder on an SDVOSB set-aside contract for an agency working with the Small Business Administration (SBA). Another bidder challenged VCG’s eligibility. The SBA determined that, because of the limitations on Montano's ownership in case of his death or incapacity, Montano did not “unconditionally” own his interest, and VCG did not qualify as an SDVOSB under 15 U.S.C. 657f. VA regulations required the removal from VetBiz of any business found ineligible in an SBA proceeding. Before VCG’s removal from VetBiz, the VA solicited bids for SDVOSB set-aside contracts for a roof replacement and for relocation. Hours before the deadline on the roof solicitation, VCG filed a bid protest in the Court of Federal Claims. Because VCG was not listed on VetBiz on the day bidding closed, the contracting officer could not consider VCG’s roofing bid and recommended cancellation and reposting. VCG sought a preliminary injunction. The VA finalized cancellation; hours later, the Claims Court entered a preliminary injunction restoring VCG to VetBiz, noting that the VA and SBA differ in defining unconditional ownership, but specifically declined to address relief related to the roofing solicitation. The Federal Circuit affirmed, finding that the contracting officer acted rationally in requesting cancellation based on the record. View "Veterans Contracting Group, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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In 2007, the VA sought to lease space for a Parma, Ohio VA clinic. A pre-solicitation memorandum stated that the building must comply with the Interagency Security Committee (ISC) Security Design Criteria. The subsequent Solicitation discussed the physical security requirements. Premier submitted a proposed design narrative that did not address those requirements. In 2008, Premier and the VA entered into a Lease. Premier was to provide a built-out space as described in the Solicitation. About 18 months later, the VA inquired about Premier’s first design submittal, advising Premier to obtain access to the ISC standards, because “the project needs to be designed according to the ISC.” The ISC denied Premier’s request, stating that the documents had to be requested by a federal contracting officer who has a “need to know.” The VA forwarded copies of three ISC documents. Some confusion ensued as to which standard applied. The VA then instructed Premier to disregard the ISC requirements and to incorporate the requirements from the latest VA Physical Security Guide. Months later, the VA changed position, stating that “[t]he ISC is the design standard.” Premier’s understanding was that only individual spaces listed in a Physical Security Table needed to comply with the ISC. The VA responded that the entire building must conform to the ISC at no additional cost. Premier constructed the building in accordance with the ISC standards then unsuccessfully requested $964,356.40 for additional costs. The Federal Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the government. The contract unambiguously requires a facility conforming to ISC security requirements. View "Premier Office Complex of Parma, LLC v. United States" on Justia Law

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The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) administers the project-based Section 8 housing program using Housing Assistance Payments renewal contracts. The landlords own publicly-assisted housing in Yonkers and allege that the government breached the renewal contracts, resulting in money damages. The trial court determined that it had jurisdiction, found the government liable for breach of contract, and awarded $7.9 million in total damages. The Federal Circuit vacated, finding that the trial court lacked jurisdiction because the parties were not in privity of contract. The contracts at issue were executed in a two-tiered system. First, HUD contracted with a public housing agency (New York State Housing Trust Fund Corporation), which contracted with the Landlords. Neither contract explicitly named both the government and the Landlords as directly contracting parties. View "Park Properties Associates v. United States" on Justia Law

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In 2009, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) entered into a “Cooperative Agreement” with St. Bernard Parish under the Federal Grant and Cooperative Agreement Act, 31 U.S.C. 6301–08. Under the Emergency Watershed Protection Program, NRCS was “authorized to assist [St. Bernard] in relieving hazards created by natural disasters that cause a sudden impairment of a watershed.” NRCS agreed to “provide 100 percent ($4,318,509.05) of the actual costs of the emergency watershed protection measures,” and to reimburse the Parish. St. Bernard contracted with Omni for removing sediment in Bayou Terre Aux Boeufs for $4,290,300.00, predicated on the removal of an estimated 119,580 cubic yards of sediment. Omni completed the project. Despite having removed only 49,888.69 cubic yards of sediment, Omni billed $4,642,580.58. NRCS determined that it would reimburse St. Bernard only $2,849,305.60. Omni and St. Bernard executed a change order that adjusted the contract price to $3,243,996.37. St. Bernard paid Omni then sought reimbursement from NRCS. NRCS reimbursed $355,866.21 less than St. Bernard claims it is due. The Federal Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the Parish’s lawsuit, filed under the Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. 1491(a)(1), for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. In the Federal Crop Insurance Reform and Department of Agriculture Reorganization Act of 1994, 7 U.S.C. 6991–99, Congress created a detailed, comprehensive scheme providing private parties with the right of administrative review of adverse decisions by particular agencies within the Department of Agriculture, including NRCS. View "St. Bernard Parish Government v. United States" on Justia Law