The Civil Division's mission is to protect the interests of the United States by defending against, and pursuing, claims for money damages and declaratory and injunctive relief in cases involving the broad spectrum of civil litigation. Most often, the Civil Division accomplishes its mission by litigating on behalf of the United States in federal court. The Division routinely attempts to resolve matters via alternate dispute resolution before proceeding to trial. The categories of cases in which the Civil Division defends the interests of the government include: tort claims seeking money damages from the United States for injuries allegedly caused by federal employee negligence, claims against federal employees for alleged violations of constitutional rights, actions challenging federal agency decisions or actions in administering statutory or regulatory programs, employment discrimination and sexual harassment claims, social security disability appeals, and immigration cases. The Civil Division provides affirmative legal representation for the government in fraud cases, bankruptcy proceedings, tax cases, and commercial litigation.
The Civil Division's affirmative cases include: enforcement actions under the environmental laws of the United States, claims under the civil rights and fair housing statutes, cases under the False Claims Act and other statutes that authorize civil remedies or penalties for conduct committed in connection with the administration of federal programs, and the collection of debts owed to the United States and federal agencies.
Affirmative Civil Enforcement
A large portion of the Civil Division's affirmative caseload is handled through the Affirmative Civil Enforcement (ACE) program and the Financial Litigation Unit (FLU). The Civil ACE attorneys frequently work with the Criminal Division in the investigation and pursuit of cases where federal health programs have been defrauded by individuals or organizations. The ACE Coordinator is part of the District of Alaska's Corporate Fraud Taskforce, which includes a variety of federal and state agencies involved in administering and overseeing programs that are susceptible to fraud. Civil remedies can be and are pursued in cases where criminal prosecution has been declined. Federal statutes authorize civil fines, treble damages, and the recovery of investigative costs as part of civil health care fraud cases.
In addition to health care fraud, the ACE program recovers significant amounts of money from persons who have engaged in wrongful conduct that subjects them to civil fines and damages on behalf of the United States. These cases typically involve fraudulent use of the mails, food stamp or procurement fraud, HUD and HHS program and grant violations, financial institution fraud, and obtaining benefits improperly from the various federal agencies that operate in the District of Alaska. Whenever someone improperly obtains money from the United States, with or without fraudulent intent, the ACE program provides a means of recovering that money.
Financial Litigation Unit
The FLU's principal function is to collect debts owed to the United States by persons or corporations. The FLU pursues the collection of defaulted federal student loans, criminal fines, restitution orders and mandatory special assessments, civil fines and penalties, and other financial obligations that have been reduced to judgment in favor of the United States. The FLU is staffed with one Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA), two full-time paralegals, and a part-time debt collection agent.
The Civil Division is responsible for representing government agencies in bankruptcy proceedings. These cases involve the government as a creditor seeking to preserve its rights against corporate or individual debtors who have obtained loans through a variety of federal programs or who owe federal taxes. This caseload has increased due to more debtors filing complaints seeking to discharge educational loans in response to amendments to the Bankruptcy Code. The Civil Division vigorously litigates these actions in order to protect the creditor interests of the United States.
Defensive litigation accounts for a substantial percentage the Civil Division's work including Federal Tort Claims Act litigation, constitutional tort claims, employment discrimination cases, and social security disability proceedings.
Federal Tort Claims Act Litigation
The Civil Division's Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) caseload includes a broad range of cases claiming personal injuries and property damage allegedly caused by the negligence of federal employees. FTCA cases account for a substantial portion of the Civil Division caseload and they consume a significant amount of the Civil Division AUSAs’ work hours. The Civil Division handles a relatively large medical malpractice caseload due to the number of federal health care providers in the District of Alaska. The Division represents the United States in tort lawsuits involving the military health care facilities and providers in Alaska, the Alaska Native health care facilities and providers throughout Alaska, and other federally funded health care facilities. Due to the number and scope of federal government agencies and operations in Alaska the Civil Division handles a substantial volume of personal injury claims involving the conduct of federal employees.
Constitutional Tort Claims and Employment Litigation
The Civil Division defends a significant number of cases brought by plaintiffs alleging violation of their federal constitutional rights or claims under the Civil Rights Act by plaintiffs alleging discrimination, sexual harassment, retaliation and other grievances connected with federal employment. Due to the complexity of the legal issues and the lengthy history of the factual allegations in these cases, discovery and pretrial litigation are frequently more extensive than the normal personal injury tort case.
The Civil Division defends a significant number of cases under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act brought by plaintiffs alleging discrimination, sexual harassment, retaliation and other grievances connected with federal employment. Due to the lengthy chronological history of the factual allegations in these cases, discovery and pretrial litigation are frequently more extensive than the normal personal injury tort case.
Social Security Litigation
Applicants for Social Security disability benefits are entitled to seek review in the district court following a denial of benefits by the agency. These cases involve the district court’s review of the administrative record and decision of the Social Security Administration. These cases are handled by Social Security agency counsel, designated as Special AUSAs, in conjunction with Civil Division AUSAs.
The Civil Division supports the Department of Justice's Environment and Natural Resources Division by providing lead or support counsel in environmental litigation, both affirmative and defensive, in a variety of areas. These include actions involving the application of federal environmental laws to Alaska lands, natural resources, wildlife, and fisheries, Alaska Native Rights issues, subsistence hunting and fishing rights, submerged lands and navigable waters, logging issues, claims relating to in-holdings and access to rights-of way in National Parks and other federal lands, condemnation actions, and illegal dumping and pollution cases.
Other Program Activities
In addition to the affirmative and defensive litigation previously mentioned, the Civil Division is involved in a variety of cases where the United States is an interested party. The Civil Division enforces compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and intervenes in actions involving real property, in which the United States may have a lien or other protected interest. The Division responds to or enforces court summonses that require execution in the District of Alaska, to the extent that the United States has an interest in the subject matter, and the Division provides assistance to foreign governments upon request. Civil Division AUSAs handle or assist with a wide variety of cases involving federal prisoners' rights, civil rights, the Privacy Act, the Administrative Procedures Act, the Freedom of Information Act, immigration laws, subpoena enforcement, and labor law issues and program enforcement.
The Civil Division is staffed by four AUSAs, four paralegals, a part-time debt collection agent, and one legal assistant. The Civil Division staff are assigned to the main office in Anchorage. Civil cases are periodically assigned to and litigated by AUSAs assigned to the branch offices of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, in Juneau and Fairbanks.