The Torts Branch represents the United States, including its officers and agents, in suits for monetary damages alleging negligent or wrongful acts and under statutory compensation programs. In addition, Torts Branch attorneys handle claims related to injury and damage to Government property. Six sections handle the Torts Branch’s major practice areas: the Aviation and Admiralty Section; the Environmental Tort Litigation Section; the Federal Tort Claims Act Litigation Section; and the Constitutional and Specialized Torts Litigation Section.
The Civil Division represents the United States in any civil or criminal matter within its scope of responsibility: protecting the public fisc, ensuring that the Federal Government speaks with one voice in its view of the law, preserving the intent of Congress, and advancing the credibility of the government before the courts.
The Office of Immigration Litigation oversees all civil immigration litigation, both affirmative and defensive, and it is responsible for coordinating national immigration matters before the federal district courts and circuit courts of appeals. It provides support and counsel to all federal agencies involved in alien admission, regulation, and removal under U.S. immigration and nationality statutes. Office of Immigration Litigation attorneys work closely with United States Attorneys’ Offices on immigration cases.
National Courts Section attorneys practice before the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, the United States Court of Federal Claims, and the United States Court of International Trade, as well as occasionally before other federal district and circuit courts and in administrative tribunals. The National Courts Section’s practice areas include government contracts, constitutional claims, pay claims, personnel appeals, veterans’ benefits appeals, and international trade, which they litigate from their headquarters in Washington, DC and from a field office in New York, NY.
The Fraud Section litigates cases of financial fraud perpetrated against the Federal Government. The section’s heaviest caseload covers health care fraud, primarily Medicare and Medicaid fraud. However, the Fraud Section has a diverse practice addressing all types of fraud against federal agencies, including fraud occurring in government goods and services procurement, research grant solicitations, subsidy programs, federal building construction, and foreign aid programs.
Federal Tort Claims Act Litigation Section attorneys handle cases arising under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), which permits suits against the United States for injuries allegedly caused by the “negligent or wrongful act of any employee of the government while acting within the scope of his [or her] office or employment. The broad scope of the FTCA results in a highly varied caseload.
Federal Programs Branch attorneys litigate on behalf of approximately 100 federal agencies, the President, Cabinet officers, and other government officials. They defend against constitutional challenges to federal statutes, suits to overturn government policies and programs, and attacks on the legality of government decisions. The Federal Programs Branch also initiates litigation to enforce regulatory statutes and to remedy statutory and regulatory violations.
The Environmental Torts Litigation Section defends the government against claims for monetary damages resulting from death, personal injury, or property damage allegedly caused by environmental or occupational exposure to toxic substances, and occasionally handles other important tort cases. These claims are usually brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act, but may also be premised upon various environmental statutes, admiralty law, or contract law.
Attorneys in the Corporate and Financial Litigation Section promote and protect the United States' interests in commercial matters before federal district courts, courts of appeals, and bankruptcy courts. These matters include corporate bankruptcy and reorganization proceedings; federal subsidy, loan, and insurance programs; contract disputes; and veterans' reemployment rights in private industry.
The Consumer Protection Branch enforces federal consumer protection statutes through both civil and criminal litigation. For example, the office represents the government in proceedings and civil suits instituted against corporations and individuals accused of Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act violations. It also defends the government against challenges to federal policies and initiatives designed to protect the public in its purchases of foods, drugs, devices, and other consumer products.
The Constitutional and Specialized Torts Litigation Section represents individual federal employees both directly and by monitoring and guiding the work of United States Attorneys. Section attorneys also represent the United States and its agencies in suits in which both the government and individual federal officials are named as defendants. The Constitutional and Specialized Torts Litigation Section oversees both the Vaccine Litigation Section and the Radiation Exposure Compensation Program.
The Commercial Litigation Branch both brings claims on behalf of the United States and defends claims brought against the United States. The claims can involve billions of dollars in money damages. The branch’s work falls into six major practice areas, each of which is overseen by a section: the Corporate and Financial Litigation Section, the Office of Foreign Litigation, the Fraud Section; the Intellectual Property Section, and the National Courts Section.
Aviation, Space and Admiralty Litigation Section attorneys operate out of offices in Washington, DC and San Francisco, CA. This section's aviation practice includes litigation arising from our nation's air traffic control system operation, its regulation of air commerce, the weather services, aeronautical charting, and from government aircraft operations. In its admiralty practice, the section represents the government as ship owner and as regulator of the nation's coastal and inland waterways.
The Appellate Staff is responsible for the Civil Division’s appellate practice. It oversees cases pending in appellate courts from each branch and section. In addition, Appellate Staff attorneys handle the many cases appealed directly from administrative agencies to the courts of appeals. The Appellate Staff also drafts documents for submission to the U.S. Supreme Court, including petitions for certiorari and briefs on the merits.