Keene Corporation v. United States

PETITIONER: Keene Corporation
RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: City of Minneapolis

DOCKET NO.: 92-166
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1991-1993)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

CITATION: 508 US 200 (1993)
ARGUED: Mar 23, 1993
DECIDED: May 24, 1993

Lawrence G. Wallace - for respondent
Richard G. Taranto - on behalf of the Petitioner

Facts of the case


Media for Keene Corporation v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 23, 1993 in Keene Corporation v. United States

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument now in 92-166, Keene Corporation v. The United States.

Mr. Taranto.

Richard G. Taranto:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court:

This case involves the meaning of 28 U.S.C. section 1500, which says that the Court of Federal Claims shall not have jurisdiction over a claim against the United States if the plaintiff has pending in another court another case against the Government or its agents for or in respect to that claim.

The Federal circuit, expressly repudiating long-settled precedent, held that section 1500 automatically requires dismissal whenever the plaintiff had pending sometime during its suit another action growing out of the same transaction or operative facts.

William H. Rehnquist:

When you say, repudiating long-standing precedent, Mr. Taranto, you mean Federal circuit or Court of Claims precedent, right?

Richard G. Taranto:


Yes, that's right, and it required dismissal even if the actions had to be pursued separately, and even if the other action is over.

Based on this new rule, petitioner came and had its cases dismissed after 10 years of pretrial proceedings were completed.

Denying Keene a hearing on its claims based on the Government's sale of asbestos, its requirement of asbestos in products it's purchased, and its manner of operating shipyards.

Our position is that the Federal circuit misconstrued section 1500 in two respects, and that two longstanding constructions of 1500 should be reinstated.

First, two suits are not for or in respect to the same claim where Congress has insisted that the claims in the two suits are different by demanding that they must be brought separately, and second, by its plain terms, the statute does not apply after the plaintiff no longer has pending any other suit.

Now, on the first position, I want to make four points.

The first is that it was settled law in the Court of Claims and the Federal circuit, two of the only courts, aside from this Court, that could ever address this question, for more than a quarter of a century, that when Congress has declared that two separate rights of action must be litigated in two different courts, the court should not turn around and read 1500 as saying that the two suits are really for and in respect to the same claim.

William H. Rehnquist:

On what general principle of law do you base this argument, Mr. Taranto?

I mean, we don't ordinarily review Court of Claims or Federal circuit precedent.

Richard G. Taranto:


I think that... well, stare decisis in its strict terms perhaps applies only to this Court's review of its own precedent.

Nevertheless, because stare decisis is a policy-based doctrine the same--

William H. Rehnquist:

We wouldn't take a case here, I don't think, to hear it argued that the Ninth Circuit had failed to follow stare decisis in connection with a Ninth Circuit precedent.

Richard G. Taranto:

--No, I think that's right, but this, I think, presents two unique circumstances.

One is that the issue of 1500's interpretation is unique to the Federal circuit.

There can't be a lower court conflict, and as a consequence, all of the reliant's interest both of litigants like Keene and of Congress in legislating in the area, must necessarily look to established law in that circuit to guide litigants and guide Congress, and it's for that reason that we think that cases like the Casman line of cases demand special respect.

Byron R. White:

But I... you would still say that even if there hadn't been a precedent until this one, that the court of appeals just had it wrong.

Richard G. Taranto:

Yes, I think that's right.

The principle--

Byron R. White:

And since it would be the only court to construe that statute, you couldn't wait for a conflict.

Richard G. Taranto:

--That's right.

The reading that the Court of Claims and the Federal circuit gave to the statute for a quarter of a century in fact we think reflects the most natural reading of 1500's language.

David H. Souter:

Are you in any position to make an argument that Congress might be deemed to have accepted that interpretation?