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Silva v. United States

Citation: 33 ELR 20088
No. No. 02-5080, 51 Fed. Appx. 12/(Fed. Cir., 10/09/2002)

The court affirms a U.S. Court of Federal Claims' decision that it lacked jurisdiction over an exotic bird breeder's takings and breach of contract claims against the government. In 1989, the breeder entered into a breeding loan agreement with an individual who subsequently became an informant for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). The FWS eventually seized the breeder's birds, but offered to return all undiseased birds to the breeder after testing. The breeder, allegedly acting on the misconception that all of the birds were diseased, abandoned the birds to the government. When the breeder learned that most of the birds were not, in fact, diseased, he brought a takings claim and breach of contract claim against the government, with the breach of contract claim based on the assertion that the informant acted on behalf of the government when entering the breeder loan agreement. The Court of Federal Claims dismissed the claims for lack of jurisdiction and the breeder appealed. The court first holds that the Court of Federal Claims lacked jurisdiction over the breeder's claims. The Tucker Act limits the jurisdiction of the Court of Federal Claims to acts against the government based on the U.S. Constitution, Acts of Congress, contracts with the United States, or unliquidated tort damages. The breeder's breach of contract and takings claims arise from a criminal investigation and prosecution, and such criminal proceedings are sovereign matters over which the Court of Federal Claims has no jurisdiction. Moreover, the court holds that the breach of contract claim fails because the breeder failed to show that the informant had authority to bind the government or how the government would be liable. Similarly, the court holds that the takings claim fails because it is based on the government's allegedly fraudulent statement that the birds were sick and diseased. Such a claim sounds more in tort as a fraud claim, and the Court of Federal Claims lacks jurisdiction over such tort actions.