The Civil Division represents the United States at both the trial and appellate levels in civil actions in both District Court and Bankruptcy Court in the Northern District of New York, and before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. The Civil Division focuses on the following practice areas.
GENERAL DEFENSIVE LITIGATION
The Civil Division has a challenging and diverse general defensive ligation practice in which it represents the United States, its agencies, and employees. Assistant United States Attorneys in the Division handle a wide variety of cases, including negligence cases brought pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act, constitutional tort claims brought against federal employees in their individual capacities, employment discrimination cases brought against federal agencies, challenges to the decisions of administrative law judges employed by the Social Security Administration, lawsuits challenging actions by the Internal Revenue Service, bankruptcy cases in which the United States is a creditor, requests for information made pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, and New York State foreclosure actions where the United States has an interest in the property. The following are examples of the defensive litigation handled by civil Assistant United States Attorneys:
- A lawsuit alleging that a DEA Special Agent violated a drug suspect’s constitutional rights when the Agent seized items from the suspect’s car;
- A lawsuit alleging that a supervisor with the Transportation Security Administration discriminated against another employee because of her religious beliefs;
- A lawsuit alleging that a doctor employed by a Veterans Affairs Medical Center or a federally funded health clinic committed medical malpractice;
- A lawsuit alleging that a Postal employee negligently operated a postal vehicle, resulting in serious personal injuries to an occupant of another car;
- A lawsuit challenging the Social Security Administration's final decision to deny Social Security Disability benefits to a person;
- A lawsuit by a prisoner alleging that the Bureau of Prisons violated his constitutional rights by failing to provide medical services;
- A lawsuit alleging that a U.S. Post Office failed to properly maintain its property, resulting in a customer falling and tearing a quadriceps tendon;
- A lawsuit alleging that the U.S. Department of Education failed to adequately respond to a FOIA request pertaining to reimbursements made to lending institutions for defaulted student loans; and
- A mandamus action seeking a court order directing U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to adjudicate an individual’s immigration status.
AFFIRMATIVE CIVIL LITIGATION
The Civil Division has an active and successful Affirmative Civil Enforcement (ACE) program, through which we address fraud, waste and abuse in a wide variety of government programs, and file actions to impose civil penalties and seek compliance with our nation’s environmental, health, safety, and civil rights laws. Several Assistant United States Attorneys and staff are devoted full-time to ACE prosecutions, helping to ensure that our District consistently returns millions of dollars to the federal taxpayers.
In its fraud investigation efforts, the Civil Division works closely with attorneys in the office’s Criminal Division, as well as Special Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Inspectors General for many federal agencies. The Division aggressively pursues cases under the False Claims Act, which provides the United States with a cause of action for financial fraud against the government. The False Claims Act provides for recovery of triple the amount of damages incurred by the United States, in addition to other civil penalties for each false or fraudulent claim submitted to the government. The False Claims Act also allows private citizens to file suit on behalf of the government (called “qui tam” suits) against those who have defrauded the government. Private citizens who successfully bring qui tam actions may receive a portion of the government’s recovery. Many of our District’s successful ACE investigations and lawsuits have arisen from such qui tam actions.
In our affirmative civil rights cases, the Civil Division seeks to enforce a wide array of federal civil rights statutes prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, disability, religion, familial status, and national origin. Complaints regarding discrimination involving voting, police misconduct, education, employment, housing, lending, institutionalized individuals, and individuals with disabilities all fall within our jurisdiction. To report a civil rights violation to our office, either (1) download and complete the Civil Rights Complaint Form and send it by email to USANYN.Civil.Rights.Hotline@usdoj.gov or by U.S. mail to the address noted in the “Contact the Civil Division” section, or (2) leave a detailed message on our civil rights hotline (518-618-1619).
The following are examples of the kinds of matters investigated and resolved by the ACE Unit in recent years:
- contractors who provide defective goods or worthless services to federal agencies or who charge the government for goods and services not delivered;
- health care providers who defraud federal health programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, by overbilling for goods and services or billing for goods and services that were not rendered, not medically necessary, or substandard;
- individuals who defraud federal agencies – such as the Small Business Administration, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Education, and other federal agencies – by using misrepresentations to obtain grants, loans, and other benefits to which they are not entitled;
- entities and individuals who have violated the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the country's other pollution-control laws;
- places of public accommodation that fail to accommodate individuals with disabilities;
- police departments that engage in a pattern or practice of discriminating against individuals based upon their national origin, race, color, sex, or religion; and
- pharmacies and doctors engaged in drug diversion involving controlled substances.
The Civil Division’s Financial Litigation Unit (FLU) has the responsibility of recovering debt owed to the United States and victims of federal crimes pursuant to civil and criminal judgments. Assistant United States Attorneys and staff assigned to the FLU enforce criminal restitution orders for the benefit of victims, including private citizens and government agencies. They also work to ensure the collection of civil debts owed to the United States arising from breaches of contracts, defaulted loans and failures to pay settlements, fines, and penalties owed to the government.
The following are examples of litigation initiated by the FLU:
- filing civil actions against those who have defaulted on federal loans, including student loans, farm loans, small business loans, and residential and commercial mortgages;
- seizing debtor property such as homes, cars, boats and other personal property; filing liens on debtor real estate; and commencing foreclosure proceedings;
- garnishing wages of a debtor; and
- commencing actions to void fraudulent conveyances, which are transactions in which the debtor tries to reduce the amount of money payable to the government as a creditor.
The Civil Division also represents various federal agencies in bankruptcy matters. These agencies include the Internal Revenue Service, Department of Agriculture, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Education, and the Department of Veterans Affairs
The following are examples of the bankruptcy litigation handled by attorneys in the Civil Division:
- objecting to plans that fail to provide for payments required by the Bankruptcy Code;
- defending complaints seeking to discharge student loans; and
- filing complaints objecting to a discharge based on the improper disposition of collateral.
CONTACT THE CIVIL DIVISION
United States Attorney’s Office
Northern District of New York
445 Broadway, Room 542
Albany, New York 12207
Attn: Civil Division
(518) 431-0247 (Telephone)
(518) 431-0386 (Fax)