8.28.2006

Ninth Circuit Notes Split Re Exclusivity of Tucker Act Jurisdiction

Per Marceau v. Blackfeet Housing Authority, 455 F.3d 974 (9th Cir. July 21, 2006):

The Tucker Act vests the Court of Federal Claims with exclusive jurisdiction for contract claims against the United States. See 28 U.S.C. § 1491(a)(1). The Little Tucker Act carves out a minor exception, creating concurrent jurisdiction in the district courts for contract claims against the United States not exceeding $10,000. See 28 U.S.C. § 1346(a)(2). [G]iven that Plaintiffs seek monetary damages in excess of $10,000, the District Court correctly determined that it was without jurisdiction to hear Plaintiffs' contract claims against HUD. [FN6]

FN6. Contrary to Plaintiffs' assertions, where a case falls under Tucker Act jurisdiction, federal question jurisdiction cannot serve as an alternative basis for jurisdiction. Plaintiffs cite a Seventh Circuit case holding that federal question jurisdiction can be an alternative basis for jurisdiction, W. Sec. Co. v. Derwinski, 937 F.2d 1276, 1280-81 (7th Cir.1991), and indeed the circuits appear to be divided on this question. Compare C.H. Sanders Co. v. BHAP Hous. Dev. Fund Co., 903 F.2d 114, 118- 20 (2d Cir.1990) (finding Tucker Act jurisdiction not exclusive, where there is federal question jurisdiction and a waiver of sovereign immunity), with A.E. Finley & Assoc. v. United States, 898 F.2d 1165, 1167 (6th Cir.1990) ("[I]f an action rests within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Claims Court under the Tucker Act ... the district court does not have jurisdiction regardless of other possible statutory bases."). The Ninth Circuit has not squarely confronted the particular arguments raised in those two cases, but has generally held that Tucker Act jurisdiction is exclusive. See, e.g., Skokomish Indian Tribe v. United States, 410 F.3d 506, 511 (9th Cir.2005) (en banc); M-S-R Pub. Power Agency v. Bonneville Power Admin., 297 F.3d 833, 840 (9th Cir.2002); Wilkins v. United States, 279 F.3d 782, 785 (9th Cir.2002). We see no reason to disturb that conclusion here. Because Tucker Act jurisdiction is exclusive, except where the Little Tucker Act provides concurrent district court jurisdiction, such claims are properly reviewed in the court of claims, not in the federal district courts.

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