Daniel F. Van Horn, Chief
Civil litigation involving the Federal government in the District of Columbia is divided among the United States Attorney’s Office, other litigating components of the Department of Justice, and federal agencies that have some degree of independent litigating authority. The civil litigation assigned to the U.S. Attorney’s Office includes both defensive (U.S. as defendant) and affirmative (U.S. as plaintiff) cases and matters, which are handled by the Civil Division at both the trial and appellate levels. Most of the Civil Division’s cases are in Federal District Court and the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, but the Civil Division does have some cases in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, and does occasionally appear in the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.
The overwhelming majority of the Civil Division’s defensive cases involve claims made pursuant to either the Freedom of Information Act, the Administrative Procedure Act, the Federal employment discrimination laws, or the Federal Tort Claims Act. Other defensive cases include constitutional tort claims, actions involving property on which the United States has a lien, claims involving the immigration laws, cases challenging Social Security benefits determinations, claims by health care providers for additional payments from the Medicare and Medicaid programs, Privacy Act claims, third-party subpoenas directed to Federal agencies and employees, and bankruptcy cases in which the Federal government is a creditor.
The Civil Division has a large and productive affirmative practice that principally involves procurement and health care fraud matters. The District of Columbia ranks among the highest in the Nation in the number of qui tam whistleblower cases brought under the False Claims Act, reflecting the strong working relationships that the Civil Division has established with client agencies and private counsel who regularly represent qui tam relators. In addition, the Civil Division has developed a specialized fraud practice involving the General Service Administration’s multiple award schedule.
The Civil Division plays an important role in the enforcement of the Lobbying Disclosure Act, which imposes registration and reporting requirements on persons engaged in lobbying activities. If a lobbyist does not comply with those requirements, and fails to remedy the violation after notification from Congress, the Act provides that Congress shall notify the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Upon receiving such notification, the Civil Division first attempts to secure compliance through informal outreach and follow-up efforts and then, if those efforts are unsuccessful, through civil actions seeking monetary penalties.
The Financial Litigation Unit (FLU) of the U.S. Attorney’s Office is part of the Civil Division. The FLU collects special assessments, fines, and restitution debts imposed in criminal cases, and civil debts owed to the United States and Federal agencies such as civil judgments and settlements in affirmative cases, and student loan debts owed to the Department of Education.
Service of Process in Civil Actions
Service of process by hand delivery may be effected at the Fourth Floor of 501 Third Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. The Civil Division’s Docket Clerk(s), Lead Legal Assistant, Supervisory Legal Support Specialist, and such other Civil Division clerical staff as the Supervisory Legal Support Specialist may designate from time to time, are the clerical employees to whom hand delivery of process may be made.
Service of process by mail may be effected by sending a copy of the summons and complaint by registered or certified mail addressed to: Civil Process Clerk, United States Attorney’s Office, 555 Fourth Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20530. Please note that the address for service by mail is different from the address for service by hand, and that those two addresses should not be used interchangeably.
Hand delivery is the preferred means for service of process because, due to safety and security procedures that were put in place following the anthrax attacks in 2001 (also known as Amerithrax from the FBI case name), all mail sent to the U.S. Attorney’s Office is initially routed through the main mail room at the Department of Justice, which can occasionally result in the delay or misdelivery of that mail. In addition, when service is made by mail, service will not be deemed perfected until actual receipt by a Civil Process Clerk.
Litigants who sue Federal defendants should note that Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(d)(1) and the corresponding Superior Court Rule, SCR-Civil 4(c)(4), which impose a duty to avoid unnecessary expenses of serving the summons on certain individuals, corporations, and associations, do not apply to service on the United States and its agencies, corporations, officers, and employees.
The United States Attorney’s Office is not authorized to accept service on behalf of the Attorney General of the United States or other federal agencies, corporations, officers, or employees. Thus, if the applicable rule requires any such entities and persons to be served, then they must be served separately and in addition to service upon the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Contacting the Civil Division
The Civil Division can be contacted during normal business hours at (202) 252-2500.
The FLU can be contacted during normal business hours at (202) 252-2600.
If you have questions about a notice of non-compliance with the Lobbying Disclosure Act that you received from the Civil Division, please call (202) 252-2616.
In an emergency outside normal business hours when no one can be reached at the Civil Division’s general telephone number, contact the Department of Justice Command Center at (202) 514-5000.
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