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United States v. Rockwell Int'l Corp.

Citation: 32 ELR 20534
No. Nos. 99-1351 et al., 282 F.3d 787/(10th Cir., 02/14/2002)

The court affirms in part and remands in part a district court decision in a suit brought under the False Claims Act (FCA) by an individual and joined in by the U.S. government concerning pollution, environmental law violations, and breach of contract claims at a nuclear weapons plant operated for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The court first holds that the district court properly concluded that the individual was an original source of the information on which his FCA allegations were based. The individual adduced sufficient proof to establish that he had direct and independent knowledge of the information on which his FCA claims were based. The court, however, made a limited remand for further proceedings on the issue of whether the individual voluntarily provided the information underlying his claim to the United States before filing suit. If, on limited remand, the district court finds that there was no proper pre-litigation disclosure pursuant to the FCA, the judgment for the government will be modified and the judgment for the individual vacated. If the district court finds that there was proper disclosure by the individual to the government, the judgment will stand.

The court next holds that the district court correctly concluded that relators have standing to litigate qui tam claims. The court also holds that the district court properly held that the FCA's qui tam provisions do not violate the Appointments Clause of Article II of the U.S. Constitution. The procedural requirements of the Appointments Clause only apply to the appointment of officers, and qui tam relators do not serve any office of the United States. Similarly, at least where the government intervenes, the FCA's qui tam provisions do not violate the separations of powers by transgression of the Take Care Clause. The court additionally holds that the district court did not err in denying the government's motion for a new trial. The government's motion was predicated on the assumption that the jury calculated its award of damages in an impermissible manner. A verdict, however, will not be upset on the basis of speculation as to the manner in which jurors reached it. Moreover, the court holds that the district court did not err by dismissing with prejudice the government's claim for common law fraud, or by not instructing the jury to find that the contractor operating the plant for DOE breached its contract.

A dissenting judge would hold that the individual did not qualify as an original source under the FCA.

[A related decision is published at 28 ELR 20361.]

The full text of this decision is available from ELR (19 pp., ELR Order No. L-468).

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Peter R. Maier
Environment and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 514-2000

Counsel for Defendants
Christopher J. Koenigs
Williams, Youle & Koenigs
950 17th St., Ste. 2450, Denver CO 80202
(303) 572-6700

[OPINION OMITTED BY PUBLISHER IN ORIGINAL SOURCE]