Welcome to CR-CL’s Ames Live Blog!
The Ames Competition is one of the most prestigious competitions for appellate brief writing and advocacy in the country. The students participating in the Semi-Final Round started the competition in fall of this year, and rose to the final four spots through their strong research abilities and excellent written and oral advocacy.
Case Summary (from the Board of Student Advisors): Ezekiel Adams brought a lawsuit under the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. §§ 3729-33, seeking to recover millions of dollars for the United States that a group of construction contractors allegedly stole through bid-rigging. As permitted by the statute, the United States government investigated Adams’s claim and then declined to intervene and take over the lawsuit. This gave Adams “the right to conduct the action.” 31 U.S.C. § 3730(b)(4)(B). If Adams succeeds against the defendants, the United States will recover triple the damages it suffered, plus monetary penalties, and Adams would keep a percentage of the recovery.
Almost a year later, the government decided that, actually, it did not want the lawsuit to proceed at all, and so it filed a motion to dismiss the action under 31 U.S.C. § 3730(c)(2)(A), which provides that in a False Claims Act case, “[t]he Government may dismiss the action notwithstanding the objections of the person initiating the action if the person has been notified by the Government of the filing of the motion and the court has provided the person with an opportunity for a hearing on the motion.” In support of its motion, the United States argued that if the lawsuit were to proceed, the government would be subject to burdensome discovery. The government also argued that the lawsuit was not in the government’s interests because the suit might undermine the government’s relationships with important contractors. The government did not argue that the case lacked merit.
The district court denied the government’s motion for two reasons. First, it held that the government was required to intervene in the case before filing a motion to dismiss. Because the government had initially declined to intervene, it could only intervene “upon a showing of good cause,” which the district court held the government had not made. See 31 U.S.C. § 3730(c)(3). Second, the court held that the government had not adequately justified its dismissal decision because it had not provided any non-speculative explanation for how the costs of the suit might outweigh the benefits.
This decision was at odds with other cases involving similar motions. The government therefore asked the district court to certify its order for interlocutory appeal. The district court refused to do so because it was not of the opinion that there was a “substantial ground for difference of opinion” about the controlling legal questions. 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b).
The United States accordingly petitioned for mandamus relief from the Ames Circuit. The petition presents two questions:
- Whether the district court was required to dismiss Adams’s lawsuit under 31 U.S.C. § 3730(c)(2)(A).
- Whether the district court was required to certify its order denying the government’s motion for interlocutory appeal under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b).
The Honorable Leondra Kruger of the California Supreme Judicial Court
The Honorable Britt Grant of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
The Marsha P. Johnson Memorial Team (Petitioner)
The Lloyd Gaines Memorial Team (Respondent)
Please tune in starting at 6:15 EST!