The Civil Division is responsible for representing the interests of the United States and its agencies in the Eastern District of Texas. The Division has eight AUSAs dedicated to civil work and supervised by the Civil Chief, who is located in the Plano office. The Affirmative Civil Enforcement (ACE) Coordinator for the District is currently assigned to the Tyler office. A full-time investigator is in the Plano office.
The priorities of the Civil Division are defending the United States in cases brought against it, affirmatively pursuing civil remedies and penalties for fraud against the government, and enforcing criminal fine and restitution orders.
The Division handles a wide variety of defensive cases, including employment discrimination cases, Federal Tort Claims Act matters (including medical malpractice, personal injury and wrongful death cases), immigration, prisoner suits, and commercial litigation.
The ACE group investigates and litigates matters involving fraud against the government and drug diversion. The District’s ACE program recovers millions of dollars every year on behalf of America's taxpayers.
The District has an award-winning, aggressive Financial Litigation Unit, headed by an AUSA in Tyler, that enforces federal and non-federal restitution orders and fines. The unit is also responsible for collecting civil judgments owed to the United States.
The U.S. Attorney's Office is not authorized to provide legal assistance to private citizens or to represent them.
Americans With Disabilities Act/Fair Housing Act
In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted to even the playing field for this fast-growing segment of our society. The Department of Justice is tasked with enforcing those portions of the ADA related to accessibility of facilities and programs.
The Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3601 et seq., prohibits discrimination by landlords, real estate companies, banks or other lending institutions and homeowners insurance companies based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, or disability. If you believe that you have been a victim of an illegal housing practice, you may file a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) or file a lawsuit in federal or state court. The Department of Justice brings suits on behalf of individuals based on referrals from HUD.
Applicants for Social Security benefits are entitled to seek review in federal district court following a denial of benefits by the Social Security Administration. These cases involve a review of the administrative record compiled by the Social Security Administration and are resolved through cross-motions for summary judgment without trial.
Defending Tort Litigation
Defending tort claims filed against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) encompasses a significant portion of the Civil Division’s caseload. The FTCA is a waiver of sovereign immunity by the United States for tort claims based on the acts or omissions of federal employees within the scope of their employment.
The FTCA provides for liability in the same manner as private individuals under like circumstances in accordance with the law of the place where the act or omission occurred. The tort cases typically defended by Civil Division AUSAs include personal-injury claims (e.g., a slip and fall in a federal building), medical malpractice claims arising out of treatment at Veterans Administration hospitals or other federally-supported health facilities, and motor-vehicle accidents involving a federal employee.
The Civil Division defends lawsuits alleging discrimination in employment filed by federal employees or applicants for employment on the bases of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or age. With the enactment of the provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, the District experienced a dramatic increase in employment discrimination filings. Employment discrimination cases continue to represent a significant portion of the Civil Division’s caseload.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office is not authorized to provide legal assistance to private citizens or to represent them. However, if you believe that you have been a victim of employment discrimination, you should contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to find out whether you may file a claim. The EEOC as the federal agency responsible for investigating individual claims of discrimination under Title VII and is the federal agency responsible for litigating such claims filed against private employers. Employees or applicants who believe that they have been discriminated against by a federal agency must file a complaint with the equal opportunity office of that federal agency.
The Civil Division typically gets involved in immigration cases when aliens file habeas corpus petitions in federal district court. Aliens file habeas petitions in which they seek to review orders of exclusion, challenge the legality of detention by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), challenge the denial of parole by the INS in exclusion proceedings, or seek judicial review of an INS action, such as the denial of a request for stay of deportation.
When a government agency requires land or an interest in land (such as an easement) to carry out a project, the property may have to be acquired by an action known as a “condemnation proceeding.” Such proceedings are filed only after attempts to amicably purchase the interest from the owner have been unsuccessful.
Other types of litigation involving property include land use, inverse condemnation, and quiet title cases. Land use cases typically involve an enforcement action brought on behalf of an agency such as the Environmental Protection Agency, to enjoin an owner from using their property in a manner that is inconsistent with federal regulations. Inverse condemnation lawsuits, as the name implies, concern allegations of unauthorized takings by the United States. Suits brought to quiet title arise when a citizen wishes to obtain clear title to property in which the United States claims an interest.
The United States becomes involved in bankruptcy cases when an individual, corporation, or partnership who owes money to the United States files for protection under the bankruptcy laws of the United States.
As the attorney for a creditor in a bankruptcy proceeding, the Civil Division seeks to protect the United States’ interest in the debtor's estate by defending against objections to the proof of claim filed by the United States and by objecting to confirmation of the debtor's plan of reorganization. The Civil Division also defends against actions to discharge taxes, determine tax liability, avoid liens, sell property free and clear of federal liens or mortgages, turnover of property, and enjoin certain actions by the United States. At times, the United States seeks to have the automatic stay lifted, or to have certain cases dismissed or converted to Chapter 7. Our work, however, is different from that of the U.S. Trustee.
Most of the office's bankruptcy cases involve the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Department of Education, although the Civil Division has also pursued cases on behalf of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Department of Labor.
Financial Litigation Unit
The Financial Litigation Unit (FLU) acts as the federal government's debt collector. The FLU is responsible for collecting civil and criminal debts owed the United States. The overwhelming majority of the FLU's civil collection work involves filing suit to obtain judgments on defaulted government loans such as student loans, farm loans, or mortgages guaranteed by a federal agency, and then collecting those judgments. The FLU also collects judgments and settlements owed to the United States as a result of successful Affirmative Civil Enforcement cases.
Criminal debts arise when defendants are sentenced by the court. These debts may be in the form of restitution to victims of crime, fines imposed by the court to penalize criminals, special assessments on each criminal conviction count, costs of prosecution and other costs, and forfeitures of appearance bonds.
The FLU uses the remedies provided by the Federal Debt Collection Procedures Act to secure payment of these debts. These remedies include the garnishment of wages, seizure of property, and fraudulent transaction actions. In addition, the FLU conducts judgment-debtor examinations and may offset funds owed to a debtor by the federal government, such as the debtor's federal income tax refund. Criminal debtors who are incarcerated may pay their debts by participating in the Bureau of Prisons' Inmate Financial Responsibility Program.
Affirmative Civil Enforcement
Affirmative Civil Enforcement (ACE) represents the efforts of law enforcement to pursue the civil aspects of cases involving fraud on the government, the submission of false claims to government programs, or statutory violations providing for the imposition of civil penalties. These cases may be brought instead of, or in addition to, criminal prosecution. ACE encompasses a broad range of remedies, including civil actions to obtain a money judgment in favor of the United States for recovery of monies wrongfully taken from the government, imposition of treble damages and penalties, injunctive relief, and seizures.
ACE attorneys work with criminal AUSAs and federal, state, and local agencies to share information and coordinate major health care fraud cases. To facilitate the coordination of law enforcement efforts, the Civil Health Care Fraud Coordinator works together with the Criminal Health Care Fraud Coordinator and other law enforcement agencies to maximize the ACE Unit's efforts and effectively identify wrongdoers.
Freedom of Information Act / Privacy Act Litigation
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) generally provides that any person has a right, enforceable in court, to request access to federal agency records or information. All agencies of the United States government are required to disclose records upon receiving a written request, except for those records (or portions of them) that are protected from disclosure.
The Civil Division defends lawsuits related to FOIA requests in the Eastern District of Texas.