Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

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Under the Medicare administrative contractor (MAC) program, 42 U.S.C. 1395kk1, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) use contractors to administer Medicare claims and benefits. CMS must use competitive procedures when entering into contracts with MACs, taking into account performance quality, price, and other factors. In 2010, CMS prepared solicitations to replace the original MAC contracts and implemented a policy in the solicitations for several jurisdictions, placing a limit on the amount of MAC contract responsibility that any single entity could win in a prime contractor capacity. CMS would not award more than 26% of the national A/B Medicare workload to any single contractor or more than 40% of the national A/B Medicare workload to any one set of affiliates. An “Exception” stated that, for the sake of continuity of service, CMS retained the discretion to award a particular prime contract to a particular contractor, even where doing so would exceed the policy workload. Because of the policy, with NGS’s current contracts, NGS cannot win the MAC contract for Jurisdiction H. NGS filed a pre-award protest. The Government Accountability Office rejected the protest. The Claims Court affirmed. The Federal Circuit reversed. The policy precludes “full and open competition through the use of competitive procedures,” 41 U.S.C. 3301(a)(1). Congress outlined the circumstances under which an agency may avoid the full and open competition requirement. The court rejected the government’s argument that the workload caps fall within an exception for “procurement procedures otherwise expressly authorized by statute.” View "National Government Services, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Virgin Islands is a U.S. territory that can set and receive proceeds from duties, Virgin Islands Port Authority (VIPA) is authorized to “determine, fix, alter, charge, and collect reasonable rates, fees, rentals, ship’s dues and other charges.” Since 1968, VIPA has set wharfage and tonnage fees for Virgin Islands ports. Customs collected those fees from 1969-2011, deducting its costs. The remaining funds were transferred to VIPA. In 1994, the Virgin Islands and Customs agreed to “the methodology for determining the costs chargeable to [the Virgin Islands] . . . for operating various [Customs] activities.” The agreement cited 48 U.S.C. 1469c, which provides: To the extent practicable, services, facilities, and equipment of agencies and instrumentalities of the United States Government may be made available, on a reimbursable basis, to the governments of the territories and possessions of the United States. Customs increased collection costs, which outpaced the collection of the disputed fees starting in 2004, leaving VIPA without any proceeds. After failed efforts to resolve the issue, VIPA notified Customs in February 2011, that VIPA would start to collect the fees in March 2011. VIPA sued Customs to recover approximately $ 10 million in disputed fees that Customs collected from February 2008 to March 1, 2011. The Federal Circuit affirmed a judgment in favor of Customs. Customs had authority to collect the disputed fees during the time at issue under the 1994 agreement, in combination with 48 U.S.C. 1469c. View "Virgin Islands Port Authority v. United States" on Justia Law

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Montano, a service-disabled veteran, owns 51% of VCG, which qualified as a service-disabled-veteran-owned small business (SDVOSB) under the VA system, 38 U.S.C. 8127(e)–(f), and appeared on the VetBiz database as eligible for set-aside contracts. VCG was the lowest bidder on an SDVOSB set-aside contract for an agency working with the Small Business Administration (SBA). Another bidder challenged VCG’s eligibility. The SBA determined that, because of the limitations on Montano's ownership in case of his death or incapacity, Montano did not “unconditionally” own his interest, and VCG did not qualify as an SDVOSB under 15 U.S.C. 657f. VA regulations required the removal from VetBiz of any business found ineligible in an SBA proceeding. Before VCG’s removal from VetBiz, the VA solicited bids for SDVOSB set-aside contracts for a roof replacement and for relocation. Hours before the deadline on the roof solicitation, VCG filed a bid protest in the Court of Federal Claims. Because VCG was not listed on VetBiz on the day bidding closed, the contracting officer could not consider VCG’s roofing bid and recommended cancellation and reposting. VCG sought a preliminary injunction. The VA finalized cancellation; hours later, the Claims Court entered a preliminary injunction restoring VCG to VetBiz, noting that the VA and SBA differ in defining unconditional ownership, but specifically declined to address relief related to the roofing solicitation. The Federal Circuit affirmed, finding that the contracting officer acted rationally in requesting cancellation based on the record. View "Veterans Contracting Group, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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In 2007, the VA sought to lease space for a Parma, Ohio VA clinic. A pre-solicitation memorandum stated that the building must comply with the Interagency Security Committee (ISC) Security Design Criteria. The subsequent Solicitation discussed the physical security requirements. Premier submitted a proposed design narrative that did not address those requirements. In 2008, Premier and the VA entered into a Lease. Premier was to provide a built-out space as described in the Solicitation. About 18 months later, the VA inquired about Premier’s first design submittal, advising Premier to obtain access to the ISC standards, because “the project needs to be designed according to the ISC.” The ISC denied Premier’s request, stating that the documents had to be requested by a federal contracting officer who has a “need to know.” The VA forwarded copies of three ISC documents. Some confusion ensued as to which standard applied. The VA then instructed Premier to disregard the ISC requirements and to incorporate the requirements from the latest VA Physical Security Guide. Months later, the VA changed position, stating that “[t]he ISC is the design standard.” Premier’s understanding was that only individual spaces listed in a Physical Security Table needed to comply with the ISC. The VA responded that the entire building must conform to the ISC at no additional cost. Premier constructed the building in accordance with the ISC standards then unsuccessfully requested $964,356.40 for additional costs. The Federal Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the government. The contract unambiguously requires a facility conforming to ISC security requirements. View "Premier Office Complex of Parma, LLC v. United States" on Justia Law

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The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) administers the project-based Section 8 housing program using Housing Assistance Payments renewal contracts. The landlords own publicly-assisted housing in Yonkers and allege that the government breached the renewal contracts, resulting in money damages. The trial court determined that it had jurisdiction, found the government liable for breach of contract, and awarded $7.9 million in total damages. The Federal Circuit vacated, finding that the trial court lacked jurisdiction because the parties were not in privity of contract. The contracts at issue were executed in a two-tiered system. First, HUD contracted with a public housing agency (New York State Housing Trust Fund Corporation), which contracted with the Landlords. Neither contract explicitly named both the government and the Landlords as directly contracting parties. View "Park Properties Associates v. United States" on Justia Law

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In 2009, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) entered into a “Cooperative Agreement” with St. Bernard Parish under the Federal Grant and Cooperative Agreement Act, 31 U.S.C. 6301–08. Under the Emergency Watershed Protection Program, NRCS was “authorized to assist [St. Bernard] in relieving hazards created by natural disasters that cause a sudden impairment of a watershed.” NRCS agreed to “provide 100 percent ($4,318,509.05) of the actual costs of the emergency watershed protection measures,” and to reimburse the Parish. St. Bernard contracted with Omni for removing sediment in Bayou Terre Aux Boeufs for $4,290,300.00, predicated on the removal of an estimated 119,580 cubic yards of sediment. Omni completed the project. Despite having removed only 49,888.69 cubic yards of sediment, Omni billed $4,642,580.58. NRCS determined that it would reimburse St. Bernard only $2,849,305.60. Omni and St. Bernard executed a change order that adjusted the contract price to $3,243,996.37. St. Bernard paid Omni then sought reimbursement from NRCS. NRCS reimbursed $355,866.21 less than St. Bernard claims it is due. The Federal Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the Parish’s lawsuit, filed under the Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. 1491(a)(1), for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. In the Federal Crop Insurance Reform and Department of Agriculture Reorganization Act of 1994, 7 U.S.C. 6991–99, Congress created a detailed, comprehensive scheme providing private parties with the right of administrative review of adverse decisions by particular agencies within the Department of Agriculture, including NRCS. View "St. Bernard Parish Government v. United States" on Justia Law

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In 2003, Dobyns, then an ATF agent engaged in undercover work, infiltrated the Hells Angels and assisted in the indictment of 36 people for racketeering and murder. The disclosure of his identity during the prosecutions led to threats against Dobyns and his family. ATF’s alleged failure to appropriately respond to the threats and to adequately conceal Dobyns’ identity during an emergency relocation, led Dobyns to seek compensation. In 2007, ATF agreed to pay Dobyns a lump-sum. ATF withdrew Dobyns’ and his family’s fictitious identities in 2008 despite a 2007 threat assessment. A 2008, arson attack substantially damaged Dobyns’ home, but his family escaped without injury. ATF pursued Dobyns as a suspect. In 2013, ATF’s Internal Affairs Division concluded that there was no valid reason for the withdrawal of the fictitious identifies; that risks to the family had been ignored; and that the response to the arson had been mismanaged. Dobyns sued in 2008, alleging breach of the agreement. While the suit was pending, Dobyns’ book was released; Dobyns made frequent media appearances. In 2013, the Claims Court held that there was no breach of any express provision of the agreement but that there was a breach of the implied duty of good faith and fair dealing and that Dobyns was entitled to emotional distress damages of $173,000. Dobyns alleged misconduct by the Justice Department during the litigation; the court determined that none of the alleged misconduct warranted Rule 60 relief because, even if they occurred, there was no showing that these acts could have affected Dobyns’ case. The Federal Circuit reversed the judgment as to the breach of the implied duties and affirmed the Rule 60 decision. View "Dobyns v. United States" on Justia Law

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During World War II, the Hanford Nuclear Reservation was established by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. After the war, Hanford continued in use, operated by contractors. Each time the work was transferred to another contractor, the employees that performed the work would stay the same, typically with the same pay and benefits. The Hanford Multi-Employer Pension Plan (MEPP) was established in 1987 as a contract between “Employers,” defined as named contractors, and “Employees.” The government is not a party to the MEPP but may not be amended without government approval. In 1996, some employees accepted employment with a Hanford subcontractor, Lockheed, and were informed that, upon their retirement, they would not receive retirement benefits that were previously afforded under the MEPP. They were subsequently told that they would remain in the MEPP but that, instead of calculating their pension benefits based on their total years in service, their benefits would be calculated using the highest five-year salary, and that they could not challenge the change until they retired. This became a MEPP amendment. In 2016, former Lockheed employees sued the government, alleging that an implied contract was breached when they did not receive benefits based on their total years in service. The Federal Circuit held that the former employees did not prove that an implied-in-fact contract existed. The government funds Lockheed and others to manage Hanford, but there is no evidence that the government intended to be contractually obligated to their employees; there was no mutuality of intent. View "Turping v. United States" on Justia Law

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K-Con and the Army entered into two contracts for pre-engineered metal buildings. K-Con claims that the Army subsequently delayed issuance of a notice to proceed for two years, resulting in $116,336.56 in increases in costs and labor. According to K-Con, this delay was due solely to the government’s decision to add to each contract the performance and payment bonds set forth in Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) 52.228-15. The Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals held that bonding requirements were included in the contracts by operation of law when they were awarded, pursuant to the Christian doctrine. The Federal Circuit affirmed. The two contracts are construction contracts and, under the Christian doctrine, the standard bond requirements in construction contracts were incorporated into K-Con’s contracts by operation of law. If the contracts had been issued using the standard construction contract form, there would have been no issue, but these contracts issued using the standard commercial items contract form. There were, however, many indications that the contracts were for construction, not commercial items. The statement of work included many construction-related tasks, including developing and submitting construction plans, obtaining construction permits, and cleaning up construction areas. The statement of work also required compliance with FAR regulations relevant only to construction contracts. View "K-Con, Inc. v. Secretary of the Army" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was the relative priority of statutes and regulations governing the procurement process for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The Federal Circuit affirmed the decision of the United States Court of Federal Claims concluding that section 502 of the Veterans Benefits, Health Care, and Information Technology Act of 2006, Pub. L. No. 109-461, 120 Stat. 30403, 3431-35 (VBA), requires the VA to consider awarding contracts for prescription eyewear based on competition restricted to veteran-owned small businesses before procuring this eyewear from any other source, including any nonprofit agency for the blind or significantly disabled designated as such under that Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act, 41 U.S.C. 8504. After considering the plain language of the VBA, as well as the legislative history and Congress’s intention in enacting it, the Federal Circuit held (1) the Claims Court properly exercised subject-matter jurisdiction over this action; and (2) the Claims Court did not err in its substantive legal analysis, and the VA is required to undertake the “rule of two” analysis as required under the VBA - even when goods and services are on the list. View "PDS Consultants, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law