Constitutional and Specialized Tort Litigation Section (CSTL) attorneys oversee both constitutional tort litigation, discussed below, and the Justice Department’s specialized Compensation Programs – the Radiation Exposure Compensation Program and Vaccine Injury Compensation Program – which are presented in greater detail via the preceding hyperlinks or the navigation bar on this screen’s left-hand side.
In its landmark decision Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), the U.S. Supreme Court announced that federal officials can be sued personally for money damages for the alleged violation of constitutional rights stemming from official acts. Cases in which federal officials are sued personally for official acts committed in alleged violation of the U.S. Constitution are thus often called “Bivens” cases. Constitutional and Specialized Torts Litigation (CSTL) attorneys represent government officials of any level nationwide in Bivens cases. In addition to Bivens matters, CSTL attorneys represent federal officials where state common law, statutory provisions, and professional licensing provisions similarly expose them to personal claims against them for official acts.
In accordance with Department of Justice guidelines published in the Code of Federal Regulations at 28 C.F.R. §§ 50.15 and 50.16, CSTL attorneys are the principal point of contact for issues relating to the representation of federal officials in their individual capacity, and directly provide or monitor representation of federal officials in cases in which they are sued personally. Constitutional Tort attorneys represent federal employees at all levels of government and, in the process, establish and maintain an attorney-client relationship with the defendant-employees related to the defense of the particular matter. CSTL attorneys also represent the United States and its agencies in suits in which both the government as an entity and the individual federal official personally are named as defendants.
The legal issues arising from both litigating constitutional torts and representing federal officials in their individual capacity convey expertise to CSTL attorneys in a wide range of practice areas. Most of these practice areas are unique to the mission of the Constitutional and Specialized Tort Litigation Section. The more common of these practice areas include:
- Constitutional causes of action;
- Bar and other professional disciplinary matters and sanctions (defensive);
- Civil Rights Act and other statutory causes of action;
- Qualified, statutory, and absolute immunity;
- Immigration-related litigation (Bivens issues);
- Law enforcement (Bivens issues);
- National security cases (defensive);
- Federal removal and the Supremacy Clause;
- Substitution of the United States on common law claims againsts federal employees.
The law at stake in each case varies, but ordinarily it is quite complex, and CSTL's cases often involve cutting-edge questions of constitutional law. CSTL attorneys defend cases in the U.S. district courts nationwide, with an emphasis on a motion practice asserting official immunity and aimed at avoiding unnecessary discovery and the burdens and distractions on federal officials normally associated with taking cases against them to trial.