The Civil Division of the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of South Dakota represents the interests of the United States in litigation involving the United States, its departments, agencies, and federal employees. One priority of the Department of Justice is to prevent fraud by filing affirmative cases against companies and individuals who filed false claims in the areas of health care, procurement fraud or grant fraud. Another priority is to enforce federal laws that require compliance with Fair Housing laws, the Americans With Disabilities Act, and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. The U.S. Attorney’s Office recently brought an affirmative suit to protect wetlands and to enforce food and drug regulations related to marketing a medical device. It also collects federal debts, such as mortgage foreclosures, student loans, farm loans, and Rural Utility Service loans. We pursue recovery for the costs of suppressing fires on national park or national forest lands, seeking to compensate the public for the destruction of resources, and pay the cost or restoring the forest land. In some cases, affirmative fraud litigation is filed by a private party on behalf of the United States in actions called “qui tam” whistle-blower cases. Those cases are filed under seal in order to allow the affected federal agency a chance to investigate the allegations. In those cases, the United States must decide whether the government should intervene and assume the role of lead counsel.
All lawsuits filed against the federal government are defended by the United States Department of Justice. When those lawsuits are filed in South Dakota, the Civil Division of the United States Attorney’s Office defends the case unless jurisdiction over a special area of law has been reserved to another litigating component of the Department of Justice such as the Civil Rights Division, the Tax Division, or the Environmental and Natural Resources Division. Defensive litigation that is routinely handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office includes personal injury, motor vehicle and medical malpractice litigation pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act, Employment Discrimination cases filed against federal agencies pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Bankruptcy and defensive mortgage foreclosure litigation where a federal agency is a creditor, and Freedom of Information Act or Privacy Act litigation filed against a federal agency who has decided not to release information, or who has released certain information without a person’s consent. The U.S. Attorney’s Office defends a final agency decision under the Administrative Procedures Act if it is challenged. Examples of such cases our office has recently handled include Natural Resources Conservation Service’s wetland determinations, Interior Board of Indian Appeals probate decisions, and Social Security disability benefit award determinations. The U.S. Attorney’s Office also enforces various agency regulations which explain the process a private party must follow in order to secure the testimony of a federal employee or obtain the records of a federal agency in a case where the United States is not a party.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office has no control over and does not endorse any external Internet sites which are hyperlinked.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
The following is a sampling of some of the questions we receive from callers to the U.S. Attorney’s Office:
The office is called the “U.S. Attorney’s Office.” Does that mean you represent “U.S.” citizens like myself?
No. We do not generally represent private individuals in litigation against another person, company or government entity unless the person who is being sued is a federal employee who was acting within his or her official duties and that person has received special permission for Department of Justice representation.
Can the United States Attorney’s Office provide me with legal advice?
No. The attorneys who work for the U.S. Attorney’s Office are not authorized to provide legal assistance or representation to private citizens.
Okay, then can you suggest someone who could represent me?
Sorry, our office is not permitted to make direct referrals. May we suggest, however, that you contact the South Dakota State Bar Association at www.statebarofsouthdakota.com or call their lawyer referral number at 1-888-952-2333. You may also contact Legal Aid Offices or Public Advocacy Offices in your area.
Is your office under the “Attorney General?”
Yes, but it is under U.S. Attorney General of the United States, not the South Dakota Attorney General of the State of South Dakota.
What is the difference between the Attorney General of the United States and South Dakota’s Attorney General?
The United States Attorney General prosecutes federal crimes and represents agencies of the federal government and federal employees acting in an official capacity. The South Dakota Attorney General prosecutes state crimes and represents state agencies and state employees acting in an official capacity.
I need to contact a federal agency other than the Department of Justice. Can you tell me how to find them?
If you have access to a computer, the easiest way to find agency contact information is usually to do an internet search. If an agency has a local office, they should be listed in the blue pages of the telephone book. You may also call the Federal Information Center toll-free at (800) 688-9889.
How can I file a complaint if I have been the victim of housing discrimination?
South Dakotans may contact a fair housing specialist with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to determine if you have a complaint that might violate the Fair Housing Act by calling (800) 877-7353. You may file a housing discrimination complaint on line. https://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/topics/housing_discrimination
How can I file a complaint if I have been the victim of lending discrimination?
The Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Act protect consumers by prohibiting unfair and discriminatory practices. You may file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau at www.consumerfinance.gov or by calling a toll free number at (855) 411-2372.
How can I file a complaint if I have been the victim of identity theft?
The Federal Trade Commission has an online complaint process which may be accessed at www.IdentityTheft.gov to report identity theft.
How can I file a complaint if I have been the victim of disability discrimination?
You may access this link for instructions on how to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice claiming disability discrimination against a State or local government or a public accommodation (including, for example, a restaurant, doctor’s office, retail store, hotel, etc.) https://www.ada.gov/filing_complaint.htm
How do I file a complaint if I have been the victim of sexual harassment or discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, genetic information, or age, or retaliation for filing a complaint of discrimination, participating in an investigation or opposing discriminatory practices at work?
You can file a Charge of Discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission if you believe you have been discriminated against at work because of your race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. The EEOC Field Office assigned to handle South Dakota cases is the Minneapolis Area Office located at the Towle Building, 330 South Second Avenue, Suite 720, Minneapolis, MN 55401-2224. Phone: 1-800-669-4000 Fax: 612-335-4044; TTY: 1-800-669-6820. You can file a charge by sending a letter that includes your name, address and phone number; the name, address and phone number of the employer; the number of employees (if known); a short description of the events that you believe were discriminatory; when the events took place; why you believe you were discriminated against; your signature. Anonymous or unsigned complaints are not accepted.
There are time limits for filing a charge of discrimination. Generally, you need to file a charge of discrimination within 180 calendar days from the day the discrimination took place. The 180-day calendar day filing deadline is extended to 300 days if a state or local agency enforces a law that prohibits employment discrimination on the same basis. The rules are slightly different for age discrimination charges. For age discrimination, the filing deadline is only extended to 300 days if there is a state law prohibiting age discrimination in employment and a state agency or authority enforcing that law. The deadline is not extended if only a local law prohibits age discrimination.
Note: Federal employees and federal job applicants have a different complaint process, and generally they must contact an agency EEO Counselor within 45 days from the day the discrimination took place.
What is the Federal Tort Claims Act?
This is the law which provides a limited waiver of sovereign immunity for a person or a party to bring certain types of lawsuits against the federal government for negligence of a federal official acting within the scope of their employment that causes property damage, personal injury or death. Generally, in order to sue the federal government, a person or personal representative of an estate must first file an administrative claim with the federal agency. The administrative claim must be received by the agency within two years after the date of the negligent act or omission. Upon receiving an administrative claim for damages, the agency has an opportunity to investigate the claim and try to resolve it without litigation. If six months passes without any resolution being reached, the claimant is then considered to have exhausted their administrative remedies and may proceed to file a lawsuit in federal district court. A claimant who does not file an administrative claim and properly exhaust administrative remedies may not file a lawsuit in federal district court.
Where can I obtain a Standard Form 95, Administrative Claim for Damages?
The form is available online:
How do I serve the United States of America with a lawsuit?
We are unable to answer this question because it would be providing you with legal advice. However, the answer you seek is found in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure at Rule 4.
How do I obtain the testimony of a federal employee or the records of a federal agency?
A federal agency or federal employee may not testify about matters related to the official business of the government without their agency’s permission. Each agency has their own regulations found in the Code of Federal Regulations that govern procedures to secure written documents, information or testimony from a federal employee or agency. Some agencies include former employees as well as current employees.
How do I make a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request?
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a law that gives citizens the right to access information from the federal government. Each agency has separate FOIA offices, so click on FOIA Contacts, Where to Make A FOIA Request, and then select the office within that agency to locate the address and phone number of the correct FOIA staff. Each federal agency provides annual reports that provide statistics and facts about each agency’s annual FOIA responses.
How do I report a violation of my private medical information?
You may file a complaint with the Health and Human Service’s Office of Civil Rights if you feel a covered entity or business associate has violated your (or someone else’s) rights under the Health Information Privacy (HIPPA). You may submit a complaint online or in writing. South Dakota complaints are handled by the Rocky Mountain Region office: HHS/Office for Civil Rights, 191 Stout Street, Room 08-148, Denver, CO 80294. If you have questions, you may call the Department of HHS, OCR toll-free at: 1-800-368-1019, TDDY:1-800-537-7697.
If I want to report a federal crime, who should I call?
For most federal crimes, you should contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) by calling 605.334.6881.
To report a drug related crime, contact the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) by calling 605.330.4421.
To report a firearms violation, contact the United States Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Agency (ATF) by calling 605.782.8200.
To report illegal poaching or destruction of wetlands, contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by calling 605.224.8693.
To report Health Care Fraud involving Medicare, contact the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) at (605)330-4826 (Sioux Falls); or by calling 1-800-HHS-TIPS (1-800-447-8477). To report Medicaid fraud: (605)773-3331 (Pierre)
To report Social Security Fraud, contact the Office of the Inspector General for the Social Security Administration (SSA) online. To report disability fraud, you may call the fraud hotline 1-800-269-0271 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. TTY: 1-866-501-2101 for the deaf or hard of hearing.
To report fraud, abuse and waste, each agency has their own investigators. Click on this quick link to the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency to learn more and for the Inspectors General Directory get to a listing of all agency Offices of Inspector Generals, and then within that link, click on the agency that is affected by the fraud, abuse and waste.
If you do not know who to call, you can call our office (605) 330-4400 and someone will try to direct you to the correct investigative agency.
Does a person have to be convicted to have his or her property seized in a forfeiture case?
No. Under federal law, a civil forfeiture action may be commenced against the property, not the person. In addition, the Government has to prove only by a preponderance of the evidence that the property was connected to criminal activity, not beyond a reasonable doubt which is the standard in criminal cases. Thus, property may be forfeited even in the absence of a conviction; although in most forfeiture cases, a criminal conviction is also pursued in either state or federal court.
Does the U.S. Attorney’s Office enforce the Indian Child Welfare Act?
No. The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) is a federal law that applies to state child custody proceedings involving an Indian child who is a member or who is eligible for membership in a federally recognized tribe. When ICWA applies to a child’s custody placement, the child’s tribe and family will have an opportunity to be involved in decisions affecting the services for the Indian child. ICWA does not apply in custody disputes between parents or family members (such as divorce proceedings), juvenile delinquency proceedings, or to cases under tribal court jurisdiction.