H.R. 5683, Ensuring Access to Justice for Claims Against the United States Act, as amended

H.R. 5683

Ensuring Access to Justice for Claims Against the United States Act, as amended

Committee
Judiciary

Date
December 1, 2014 (113th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

On Monday, December 1, 2014, the House will consider H.R. 5683, the Ensuring Access to Justice for Claims Against the United States Act, as amended, under suspension of the rules.  H.R. 5683 was introduced by Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) on November 12, 2014 and was referred to the House Judiciary Committee.  The bill was marked up on November 13, 2014 and was ordered reported by voice vote.

Bill Summary

H.R. 5683 “amend[s] 28 U.S.C. § 1500, one of several statutes that govern the jurisdiction of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, a federal court that adjudicates cases seeking monetary relief from the United States for actions taken by the federal government.”[1]  Specifically, H.R. 5683 replaces the current bar to simultaneous litigation against the federal government with a provision that allows a plaintiff to maintain two cases against the U.S. that arise out of a single incident by staying the later-filed case until the first-filed case is no longer pending.

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[1] Statement of Chairman Bob Goodlatte, Markup of H.R. 5683, the “Ensuring Access to Justice for Claims Against the United States Act,” House Judiciary Committee (Nov. 13, 2014).

Background

Section 1500 was first enacted following the Civil War and, “[a]s Justice Sotomayor has noted, ‘judges and commentators have long called for congressional attention to this statute.’”[2]  “In many cases, section 1500 forces plaintiffs to pick and choose between remedies that would otherwise be available to them in litigation against the United States.  This is because under the complex jurisdictional scheme Congress has put in place for lawsuits against the federal government not all legal theories and legal remedies may be brought in the same lawsuit, in the same federal court in cases arising from a single incident. . . .  This jurisdictional scheme would be understandable—different federal courts have different specialties and expertise—but for the fact that section 1500 precludes a plaintiff from maintaining lawsuits against the United States arising out of a single incident in both the Court of Federal Claims and district court, even if the lawsuits seek different relief.  Rather, section 1500 forces plaintiffs to either file suit in federal claims court forgoing relief in district court or to file in district court and risk the statute of limitations expiring before the district court litigation is over and they are able to file in the Court of Federal Claims.  In short, section 1500 creates a catch-22 that makes plaintiffs pick and choose between meritorious claims against the federal government.”[3]

H.R. 5683 addresses the issue “through the use of a presumptive stay, provid[ing] a method that both prevents the federal government from facing duplicative litigation and preserves plaintiffs’ rights to seek complete redress against the government.”[4]

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[2] Id.
[3] Id.
[4] Id.

Cost

A CBO cost estimate is not available at this time.

Additional Information

For questions or further information contact the GOP Conference at 5-5107.