November 13, 2012
Supreme Court Action: Jurisdiction Under The Little Tucker Act
The United States Supreme Court issued one opinion this morning. The case is United States v. Bormes (11-192) and it concerns whether jurisdiction for violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) by the United States are founded under the FCRA or the Little Tucker Act. The latter is a generalized waiver of sovereign immunity for suit when a statute offers a remedy but not a mechanism to receive that remedy.
The facts in the case are pretty straightforward. Bormes, an attorney, paid for a client’s filing with a credit card at pay.gov. He received a receipt that included the last four digits of his credit card and the expiration date of that card. The terms of the FCRA state that it should be one or the other, not both. Bormes sued the government for the violation in the Northern District of Illinois claiming jurisdiction under both the FCRA and the Little Tucker Act. The Trial Court dismissed the action holding that the FCRA did not explicitly waive immunity. The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed, holding that the Little Tucker Act provided consent to suit.
The Supreme Court reversed. It held that when a statute such as the FCRA provides a detailed scheme for judicial remedies under an act, it displaces the generalized jurisdictional grant under the Little Tucker Act. The Court analyzed the structure of the FCRA and laid out the detailed elements of the Act that justified its interpretation under past precedent that similarly analyzed other statutes.
The Court remanded the case to the Federal Circuit with orders to transfer the case to the Seventh Circuit to consider whether there are jurisdictional elements in the FCRA to allow (or not) the suit. Justice Scalia delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court. [MG]