Silver Buckle Holds Fast

October 1, 2014

In 2001 an Idaho-based mining company—Silver Buckle Mines, Inc.—which holds seventy-two active mining claims—sued to recover fees it claims were illegally assessed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Before 2012, federal law required that holders of mining claims pay an annual maintenance fee on those claims. But in 2012, Congress briefly changed the law to require fees only on newer mining claims. (Congress changed the law back the year after). BLM collected fees from Silver Buckle even though Silver Buckle only owned older mining claims.
Silver Buckle sued, seeking a refund of those fees. The Government moved to dismiss, arguing that Congress’s withdrawal of the fee requirement in 2012 was simply “a scrivener’s error.” The Government also argued that Silver Buckle had voluntarily made the payments, and could not now seek reimbursement for what it had freely given to the Government.
The Court rejected both of the Government’s arguments. Although the Government was able to identify legislative history that allegedly supported the Government’s reading of the statute, this was not enough to justify rewriting the statute: “A federal court cannot reform the clear language of a statute based simply on its view of statutory history when there is no ambiguity to be found in the text.” The Court also rejected the Government’s defense that the payments were voluntary, holding that Silver Buckle’s complaint could not be read to support the Government’s argument:

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As part of the America Competes Reauthorization Act of 2010, federal agencies are authorized to award competitive prizes to stimulate innovation. Under this authority, the Federal Trade Commission created the public “Robocall Challenge,” which offered a $50,000 reward to anyone who could develop the best overall solution to “block illegal robocalls on landlines and mobile phones.” The FTC also issued a detailed set of rules governing how the contest would be run and how entries would be judged.

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Court Shoots Down Section 1500 Motion to Dismiss

September 26, 2014

Ensign-Bickford Aerospace and Defense Company, the owner of two patents used in ordnance firing systems, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims alleging that a Government subcontractor—Pacific Scientific Energetics Company—supplied products to the federal government that infringed Ensign-Bickford’s patents. Seeking $3 million in damages, the complaint alleged that the infringement occurred with the authorization and consent of the United States.

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Court Cans Tomato Growers’ Taking Claim

September 25, 2014

Plaintiffs, Dimare Fresh, Inc. and other growers, packers, and shippers in Florida and South Georgia, brought a taking lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims alleging that warnings issued by the Federal Drug Administration linking their tomatoes with a salmonella outbreak “caused the loss of all or substantially all of the value of Plaintiffs’ property. . . .”  The warnings, Dimare alleged, had caused the market for their tomatoes to collapse, rendering Plaintiffs’ tomatoes worthless.

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Tucker Act Shuffle, Texas Two-Step—it’s All Rock and Roll to Me

September 25, 2014

In 2008, Florentino L. Mata filed suit in federal district court for the Western District of Texas, claiming that the United States Army breached three provisions of a settlement agreement the parties had reached to resolve an employment discrimination claim.  Because the breach of contract lawsuit sought money damages, the district court transferred the case to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.

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Working Overtime

July 11, 2014

On May 8, 2014, Plaintiffs in Martin v. United States, a lawsuit seeking to recover pay for overtime hours worked in 2013, filed a second amended complaint seeking to add 900 additional plaintiffs who intended to opt in upon approval of a class certification. Martin’s motion to amend the complaint also sought to withdraw their Back Pay Act claim, which had been asserted in the First Amended Complaint, without prejudice.

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