Civil Division Overview
The Civil Division represents the United States and its departments, agencies, and employees at both the trial and appellate levels in civil actions filed in both federal and state courts in Western Washington. There are presently 13 Assistant United States Attorneys in the Civil Division, including two attorneys in the Tacoma branch office. The Division is primarily responsible for providing legal representation in civil litigation, or anticipated litigation, in the following areas: general litigation involving federal agencies, fraud involving federal funds, violations of federal statutes and regulations, Civil Rights enforcement and recovery of sums owed the government. These are described more fully below.
Civil AUSAs represent the United States and its agencies in a wide array of civil suits brought by and against the government. Defensive cases handled by the Civil Division include by way of example: suits alleging government negligence under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), allegations of unlawful discrimination in federal employment, challenges to agency actions under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), suits seeking the release of records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Privacy Act, and the defense of government officials sued in their individual capacities for constitutional violations (Bivens actions). General litigation initiated by the Civil Division includes condemnation actions, actions involving trespasses upon federal property or resources and lawsuits to vindicate tribal treaty and other rights.
Affirmative Civil Litigation
The Civil Division devotes considerable resources to the enforcement of federal regulatory schemes involving among others, health, safety and environmental laws. Lawsuits brought to enforce compliance with federal law may result in injunctive relief, forfeiture of money and/or real property, civil penalties and/or debarment by the affected government agency. In the case of persons or entities who submit false or fraudulent claims for payment to the government, or otherwise commit fraud against government programs or in connection with government procurement, lawsuits initiated by the United States under the False Claims Act can result in awards of up to treble damages and civil penalties of between $5,500 and $11,000 per false claim. Private individuals may also bring lawsuits alleging fraud against the government under the "qui tam" provisions of the False Claims Act, and may share in up to 30% of any recovery obtained by or on behalf of the United States. Allegations of health care fraud and fraud against the Department of Defense are most typically the subjects of such lawsuits, which are handled by the Office's Affirmative Civil Enforcement ("ACE") Unit.
The United States Attorney's Office, in coordination with the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights division, is responsible for enforcing federal civil rights laws in Western Washington, both through civil litigation and criminal prosecution. (more)
The Civil Division includes a Financial Litigation Unit ("FLU") that is responsible for commencing legal proceedings to enforce criminal fines, restitution orders, and civil judgments. In addition, the Civil Division represents the financial interests of the IRS and other federal agencies in bankruptcy proceedings and represents federal agencies in litigation seeking to foreclose against assets that are subject to a federal lien or that have been pledged as security for a loan made by a federal agency when the loan is in default. (more)