United States ex rel. Eisenstein v. City of New York

PETITIONER: United States, ex rel. Irwin Eisenstein,
RESPONDENT: City of New York, New York, et al.
LOCATION: New York City Government

DOCKET NO.: 08-660
DECIDED BY: Roberts Court (2006-2009)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

CITATION: 556 US (2009)
GRANTED: Jan 16, 2009
ARGUED: Apr 21, 2009
DECIDED: Jun 08, 2009

ADVOCATES:
Gideon A. Schor - argued the cause for the petitioner
Jeffrey B. Wall - Assistant to the Solicitor General, Department of Justice, argued the cause for the United States, as amicus curiae pro hac vice
Paul T. Rephen - argued the cause for the respondent

Facts of the case

Employees of the city of New York filed a lawsuit in a New York federal district court under the False Claims Act (FCA) alleging that it was unlawful for the city, as a condition of employment, to require non-resident employees to pay a fee equivalent to the income taxes paid by resident-employees. The district court dismissed the case for failing to state a claim. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that it lacked jurisdiction to hear the appeal. It reasoned that actions brought by private parties under the FCA must be appealed within 30 days of judgment and not 60 days as when the United States is a party to the lawsuit. Here, the employees of the city of New York appealed 54 days after judgment and thus their appeal was untimely.

Question

For an action filed under the False Claims Act, does the 30-day or 60-day time limit apply for filing an appeal when the United States is not a party in the lawsuit?

Media for United States ex rel. Eisenstein v. City of New York

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 21, 2009 in United States ex rel. Eisenstein v. City of New York

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 08, 2009 in United States ex rel. Eisenstein v. City of New York

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

Justice Thomas has the opinion this morning in case 08-660, United States ex rel. Eisenstein versus the City of New York.

Clarence Thomas:

This case comes to us on a writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Petitioner brought this lawsuit against the City of New York under the False Claims Act, the FCA which creates liability for those who defraud the United States Government.

The FCA is qui tam statute which means that private parties may initiate such suit on behalf of the United States and recover a share of any damages that are awarded.

The FCA permits the United States to intervene in an action initiated by a private party, but, the United States declined to do so in this case.

The District Court dismissed petitioner's claim as meritless.

He filed a notice of appeal 54 days later.

The Court of Appeals held that petitioner's appeal was untimely under the Federal Rule to Appellate Procedure which normally give a party only 30 days to file a notice of appeal.

Petitioner argued that his appeal was timely under an exception that provides 60 days to appeal in cases in which the United States is a party to the action.

The Court of Appeals disagreed holding that the United States was not a party to the FCA action because it had not intervened or otherwise substantially participated in the action.

In an opinion filed with the clerk today, we affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals although the United States is aware of and minimally involved in every FCA action, it is not a party to an FCA action for purposes of the appellate filing deadline unless it has exercised its right to intervene in the case.

Intervention is a usual method by which one becomes a party to a lawsuit.

And Congress' decision to provide a method for the United States to intervene in privately initiated FCA suits reflects its intention that intervention is to be a prerequisite to obtaining party status.

Although the statute grants the United States certain other rights even when it does not intervene, those rights are not sufficient to convert the United States into a party for purposes of appeal in every FCA case.

The opinion of the Court is unanimous.