Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Contracts
by
Percipient.ai, Inc., a company that offers a commercial computer vision (CV) platform, appealed a decision by the United States Court of Federal Claims that dismissed its case against the United States and CACI, Inc.-Federal. The case centered on the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency's (NGA) procurement process for its SAFFIRE project, which aimed to improve its processes for obtaining and storing visual intelligence data. Percipient alleged that NGA and its contractor, CACI, violated the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act of 1994 (FASA) and other procurement-related statutes by not considering its commercial CV platform, Mirage, for the project.The Court of Federal Claims had dismissed Percipient's case, ruling that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction under the FASA task order bar, which limits protests related to the issuance of task orders. The court also rejected Percipient's arguments related to the Tucker Act, standing, and timeliness.The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed the lower court's decision. It held that the FASA task order bar did not apply because Percipient's protest was not connected to the issuance of a task order. The court also found that Percipient's protest fell within the jurisdiction of the Court of Federal Claims under the Tucker Act, as it alleged a violation of procurement-related statutes. The court further held that Percipient had standing to bring the case and that its claims were timely. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "PERCIPIENT.AI, INC. v. US " on Justia Law

by
This case involves a dispute between the City of Great Falls and the Board of Commissioners of Cascade County, Montana, over the interpretation of a 1975 interlocal agreement that established a consolidated City-County Health Board. The disagreement arose after the Montana Legislature enacted new laws in 2021 that changed the governance of local health boards. The County argued that the new laws required the County Commission to be the governing body of the Health Board, while the City maintained that the 1975 agreement allowed the City mayor to be a full voting member of the Health Board.The District Court of the Eighth Judicial District ruled in favor of the City, finding that the 1975 agreement allowed the City mayor to be a full voting member of the Health Board and that the Health Board was the "local governing body" referenced in the new laws. The County appealed this decision to the Supreme Court of the State of Montana.The Supreme Court affirmed the District Court's decision. It held that the District Court did not adjudicate a non-justiciable political question and correctly interpreted the 1975 agreement and the new laws. The Supreme Court found that the 1975 agreement allowed the City mayor to be a full voting member of the Health Board and that the Health Board was the "local governing body" referenced in the new laws. The Court also held that the new laws did not moot the issues at stake in the case. View "City of Great Falls v. Cascade County Commissioners" on Justia Law

by
Eghbal Saffarinia, a former high-ranking official in the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of the Inspector General (HUD-OIG), was required by federal law to file annual financial disclosure forms detailing most of his financial liabilities over $10,000. One of Saffarinia’s responsibilities was the allocation of HUD-OIG’s information technology contracts. An investigation revealed that Saffarinia had repeatedly falsified his financial disclosure forms and failed to disclose financial liabilities over $10,000. The investigation also revealed that one of the persons from whom Saffarinia had borrowed money was the owner of an IT company that had been awarded HUD-OIG IT contracts during the time when Saffarinia had near-complete power over the agency operation.Saffarinia was indicted on seven counts, including three counts of obstruction of justice. A jury convicted Saffarinia on all seven counts, and the District Court sentenced him to a year and a day in federal prison, followed by one year of supervised release. Saffarinia appealed his conviction, arguing that the law under which he was convicted did not extend to alleged obstruction of an agency’s review of financial disclosure forms because the review of these forms is insufficiently formal to fall within the law’s ambit. He also argued that the evidence presented at trial diverged from the charges contained in the indictment, resulting in either the constructive amendment of the indictment against him or, in the alternative, a prejudicial variance. Finally, Saffarinia challenged the sufficiency of the evidence presented against him at trial.The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found no basis to overturn Saffarinia’s conviction. The court held that the law under which Saffarinia was convicted was intended to capture the sorts of activity with which Saffarinia was charged. The court also found that the government neither constructively amended Saffarinia’s indictment nor prejudicially varied the charges against him. Finally, the court found that the evidence presented at Saffarinia’s trial was sufficient to support his conviction. The court therefore affirmed the judgment of the District Court. View "USA v. Saffarinia" on Justia Law

by
The case involves Montalla, LLC ("Montalla") and the Commonwealth of Virginia, Department of Transportation ("VDOT"), and the Comptroller of Virginia (collectively the "Commonwealth"). Montalla filed a five-count complaint against the Commonwealth related to several contracts VDOT had entered into for construction inspection services. The circuit court dismissed the entire complaint, ruling that sovereign immunity barred all five counts. The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the circuit court, concluding that Counts I-III of the complaint were barred by sovereign immunity and that Counts IV-V were barred by the entry of a settlement agreement entered into by the pertinent parties.The Court of Appeals of Virginia affirmed the lower court's decision, concluding that the first three counts of the complaint were barred by sovereign immunity and that the last two counts were barred by the entry of a settlement agreement. The Court of Appeals reasoned that the settlement agreement was enforceable and that Montalla had not sufficiently alleged duress or repudiation to set it aside.The Supreme Court of Virginia reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court held that the doctrine of sovereign immunity did not bar Montalla's claims based on valid contracts. The Court also held that the Court of Appeals erred in concluding that the settlement agreement, including the release of claims contained therein, was enforceable at this stage of the proceedings. The case was remanded for further proceedings consistent with the Supreme Court's opinion. View "Montalla, LLC v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

by
The case involves a dispute between Missoula County and the Montana Department of Corrections (DOC) over the reimbursement rate for housing DOC inmates in county detention centers. The County and the DOC had entered into a contract in 2015, setting a reimbursement rate of $88.73 per day for each inmate. However, in 2015, the Montana Legislature capped the reimbursement rate at $69 per day. The County filed a lawsuit in 2020, alleging breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and unjust enrichment.The District Court granted summary judgment to the DOC, concluding that the County's contract claims were time-barred by a one-year statute of limitations. It also found that the County's tort claim for breach of the covenant of good faith was not supported by a special relationship and that the County could not recover under a theory of unjust enrichment.The Supreme Court of Montana affirmed the District Court's decision. It held that the one-year statute of limitations applied to the County's contract claims, rejecting the County's argument that an eight-year limitation period should apply. The court also agreed with the lower court that the County's tort claim for breach of the covenant of good faith was not supported by a special relationship. Finally, the court concluded that the County could not recover under a theory of unjust enrichment, as the County had not demonstrated that the DOC had reaped an inequitable gain. View "Missoula County v. Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

by
The case involves a dispute between the Terrace Hill Society Foundation (THSF) and the Terrace Hill Commission (the Commission) over the ownership and control of a collection of property and historical artifacts displayed at the Governor's official residence, Terrace Hill. THSF filed a petition seeking a declaration that it was the sole owner of the collection and an injunction granting it the right to access, itemize, insure, maintain, and preserve the collection. The Commission and its chairperson, Kristin Hurd, moved to dismiss the suit, arguing that it was barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity and that Hurd could not provide the requested relief.The district court denied the motion to dismiss with respect to the Commission, finding that the factual allegations in the petition, when viewed in the light most favorable to THSF, were sufficient to overcome the State's immunity from suit. The court reasoned that the Commission had willingly accepted possession of THSF's property and retained it after the expiration of a 1996 agreement between the parties. However, the court granted the motion to dismiss with respect to Hurd and dismissed the claims against her without prejudice.On appeal, the Supreme Court of Iowa affirmed the district court's decision. The court held that the State can impliedly or constructively waive its immunity from suit when it voluntarily creates certain legal relationships that subject it to liability. The court found that THSF's amended petition alleged sufficient facts to plead a voluntary bailment, a legal relationship sounding in contract, which impliedly waived the State's sovereign immunity. The court also affirmed the dismissal of the claims against Hurd without prejudice, rejecting her argument that the claims should have been dismissed with prejudice. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Terrace Hill Society Foundation v. Terrace Hill Commission" on Justia Law

by
Vandercar, L.L.C. entered into a $36 million purchase contract for the Millennium Hotel in Cincinnati and then assigned its interest in the hotel to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority. The agreement stipulated that the Port would pay Vandercar a $5 million redevelopment fee if the Port issued bonds to redevelop the hotel within a year of its acquisition. The Port acquired the hotel and issued acquisition bonds, but it denied that the bonds were for redevelopment of the hotel, so it refused to pay the redevelopment fee. Vandercar sued the Port for breach of contract for failing to pay the redevelopment fee and also moved for prejudgment interest.The trial court found that Vandercar was entitled to the redevelopment fee and granted Vandercar’s motion for summary judgment on that issue. However, the trial court denied Vandercar’s motion for prejudgment interest, concluding that prejudgment interest could not be imposed on the Port since it was “an arm/instrumentality of the state.” Both parties appealed to the First District Court of Appeals, which affirmed the trial court’s decisions.The Supreme Court of Ohio reversed the judgment of the First District Court of Appeals. The court held that the Port, a port authority created under R.C. 4582.22(A), is not exempt from the application of R.C. 1343.03(A), which entitles a creditor to prejudgment interest when the creditor receives a judgment for the payment of money due under a contract. Therefore, the Port may be held liable to pay prejudgment interest. The court remanded the case to the trial court to evaluate Vandercar’s motion for prejudgment interest under the correct standard. View "Vandercar, L.L.C. v. Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority" on Justia Law

by
The case involves a dispute between the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) and the cities of Conroe and Magnolia, Texas. The SJRA and the cities had entered into contracts obligating the cities to buy surface water from the SJRA. When a disagreement over fees and rates arose, the cities stopped paying their full balances, leading the SJRA to sue the cities for recovery of those amounts. The cities claimed immunity from the suit as government entities.Previously, the trial court had granted the cities' plea to the jurisdiction, and the court of appeals affirmed this decision. The court of appeals held that the SJRA had not engaged in pre-suit mediation as required by the contracts, and therefore, the cities' immunity was not waived.The Supreme Court of Texas disagreed with the lower courts' decisions. The court held that contractual procedures for alternative dispute resolution, such as pre-suit mediation, do not limit the statutory waiver of immunity for contractual claims against local government entities. The court also found that the mediation requirement did not apply to the SJRA's claims. Furthermore, the court rejected the cities' argument that the agreements did not fall within the waiver because they failed to state their essential terms.Consequently, the Supreme Court of Texas reversed the lower courts' decisions and remanded the case back to the trial court for further proceedings to resolve the SJRA's claims on the merits. View "San Jacinto River Authority v. City of Conroe" on Justia Law

by
The case involves a dispute between a developer, Campbellton Road, Ltd., and the City of San Antonio, specifically the San Antonio Water System (SAWS). The developer entered into a contract with SAWS in 2003, which included an option for the developer to participate in and fund the construction of off-site oversized infrastructure for a municipal water system. The developer planned to develop two residential subdivisions and needed sewer service for them. The contract stated that if the developer decided to participate in the off-site oversizing project, a contract would form, and the developer would earn credits that could be used to satisfy some or all of the collection component of assessed impact fees.The Court of Appeals for the Fourth District of Texas concluded that the Local Government Contract Claims Act did not apply, and therefore did not waive immunity, because there was no agreement for providing services to the system. The court held that the system had no contractual right to receive any services and would not have “any legal recourse” if the developer “unilaterally decided not to proceed.”The Supreme Court of Texas disagreed with the lower court's decision. The Supreme Court held that the Act waived the system’s immunity from suit because the developer adduced evidence that a contract formed when the developer decided to and did participate in the off-site oversizing project. The court found that the contract stated the essential terms of an agreement for the developer to participate in that project, and the agreement was for providing a service to the system that was neither indirect nor attenuated. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals’ judgment and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Campbellton Road, Ltd. v. City of San Antonio" on Justia Law

by
Frederic P. Zotos, an attorney residing in Cohasset, Massachusetts, filed a qui tam complaint against the Town of Hingham and several of its officials. Zotos alleged that the town and its officials posted speed limit signs and advisory speed plaques that did not comply with applicable federal and state laws and regulations. He further claimed that the town applied for and received reimbursements for these signs and plaques from both the federal government and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Zotos asserted that the town fraudulently induced the federal government to pay it roughly $3,300,000 and the Commonwealth to pay it approximately $7,300,000.The United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts dismissed Zotos's complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The court concluded that the qui tam action was not barred by either claim or issue preclusion. However, it found that Zotos's claims fell short of the False Claims Act (FCA) and Massachusetts False Claims Act's (MFCA) requirements. Specifically, it ruled that Zotos failed to sufficiently plead that the alleged misrepresentations were material to the federal government's and the Commonwealth's respective decisions.On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The appellate court found that Zotos's complaint did not adequately allege that the defendants' purported misrepresentations were material. It noted that the essence of the bargain under the Federal-Aid Highway Program (FAHP) and the Chapter 90 program was that the defendants incurred permissible costs on projects that were duly reimbursed. The court concluded that Zotos's allegations amounted to ancillary violations that, without more, were insufficient to establish materiality. View "United States ex rel. Zotos v. Town of Hingham" on Justia Law