Constitutional & Specialized Tort Litigation Section

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 held that federal officials can be sued personally for money damages for on-the-job conduct that violates the Constitution. Cases in which federal employees face personal liability cut across everything the government does in all three branches of government. Whether they are engaging in every-day law enforcement, protecting our borders, addressing national security, or implementing other critical government policies and functions, federal employees of every rank face the specter of personal liability.

CSTL attorneys defend federal employees in Bivens cases and in other matters where they face personal liability such as federal statutory claims, state criminal charges, and professional licensing complaints. Under the Department’s representation regulations, 28 C.F.R. §§ 50.15 and 50.16, our attorneys enter into a traditional attorney-client relationship with the employees they represent, with all the responsibilities that imposes. CSTL attorneys are also responsible for evaluating representation requests for nearly all individual liability matters, even in cases they do not personally handle. As a result, they are the principal point of contact for issues relating to personal representation of federal employees. CSTL attorneys also represent the United States and its agencies in suits in which both the government and individual federal officials personally are named as defendants.

Our clients range from line-level employees to senior policy makers with cabinet rank, and the subject matter is as broad and varied as the work of the federal government itself. CSTL attorneys grapple with unsettled constitutional questions, disputes over the reach of official immunities and cutting-edge questions of whether a Bivens remedy is available at all in particular contexts. All of our work, however, is directed toward the same goal: ensuring that the important work of the government can be accomplished. Federal employees who fear personal liability may hesitate to act in difficult circumstances. CSTL attorneys work to ensure that doesn’t happen. By representing federal employees who face personal risk on account of their government work, we defend the propriety of government actions, guard against attempts to chill the exercise of federal authority, and protect the morale of the federal workforce.

Updated September 25, 2018

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