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Civil Division


The Civil Division is responsible for defending all civil actions brought against the United States, its agencies, officers, and employees in the Southern District of California. In addition, Civil Division attorneys represent the United States as plaintiff in order to pursue actions and thus enforce laws affecting government works and collect student loans and obligations owed to the government. Through condemnation actions, Civil Division attorneys enforce statutes, such as the environmental statue, and pursue litigation to acquire property needed for federal projects. The venues for these suits include the United States District and Bankruptcy Courts and, on occasion, the State Courts.

Defensive Tort Litigation

Defense of Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) cases accounts for a major portion of the Civil Division's core caseload, and it continues to take priority in the pretrial discovery and motions practice work of many Civil Division attorneys. The Civil Division's work concerning the FTCA is comprised of a broad range of personal injury cases, which include a substantial number of medical malpractice litigation. A substantial number of tort cases continue to arise given the attendant increase in the government's presence along the Southwest Border.

Affirmative Civil Enforcement ("ACE")

The Civil Division litigates affirmative civil enforcement cases, with an emphasis on the recovery of federal program funds lost through violations of the civil False Claims Act ("FCA"). In the past decade the office has obtained several multimillion dollar recoveries, often working with prosecutors in the Criminal Division in the areas of health care fraud and defense procurement fraud. The ACE Unit has Assistant U.S. Attorneys who hold positions as ACE Coordinator and Civil Health Care Fraud Coordinator, and is assisted by a fulltime ACE auditor.

Immigration Impact

The large workload of the Criminal Division reflects the enormous impact of the government's emphasis on border control and restriction of illegal immigration along the Southwest border in San Diego and Imperial Counties. The substantial number of interactions between Border Patrol agents and undocumented immigrants produce a significant number of FTCA claims and Bivens cases brought against Civil Division agents in their individual capacity. Additionally, changes in the nation's immigration laws have generated challenges to the Department of Homeland Security's decisions involving citizenship, amnesty, adjustment of status and visa applications. The Civil Division defends a large number of habeas corpus petitions challenging such decisions.

Employment Litigation

The Civil Division defends federal agencies in litigation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act alleging discrimination, retaliation, and other grievances connected with federal employment. The high concentration of federal employees in the region (including civilians employed by the Navy, one of the largest employers in San Diego) represents a significant portion of Civil Division Assistants' workloads. A core practice group of three Assistant U.S. Attorneys handles the majority of employment cases, although nearly all attorneys in the Civil Division have at least one employment discrimination case on their dockets. Due to the often broad chronological scope of allegations in employment law cases, pretrial discovery is typically more extensive than in most tort cases.

Environmental Litigation

The Civil Division supports the Department of Justice's Environment and Natural Resources Division by providing lead counsel in complex affirmative and defensive environmental litigation in a variety of subject matter areas. Key subject areas include defensive litigation involving the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act ("CERCLA") and the California Hazardous Substances Act.

Social Security Litigation

Applicants for Social Security benefits are entitled to seek review in the district court following a denial of benefits by the agency. Social Security cases entail a review of the administrative record compiled by the Social Security Administration, and are resolved through cross-summary judgment motions without trial.

Commercial Bankruptcy

The Civil Division is responsible for representing government agencies in bankruptcy court. Cases involve the government in the role of creditor seeking to preserve its rights as against corporate or individual debtors who have obtained loans through a variety of federal programs.

Assorted Program Activities

The work of the Civil Division is not restricted to litigation. Civil Division attorneys open many files and staff them as prelitigation administrative matters. Civil Division attorneys support the work of many local Internal Revenue Service agents by seeking judicial enforcement of IRS subpoenas and writs of entry. One Assistant U.S. Attorney serves as the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA") Officer for the entire office, reviewing FOIA requests received either directly from the public or through Department channels. Civil Division attorneys also litigate on behalf of area federal agencies in response to subpoenas issued by various courts and administrative agencies, often representing the interests of the government during trials, hearings and depositions. The Chief of the Civil Division also serves as the office's custodian of records, responding to all judicial, administrative, or pursuant requests to 28 C.F.R. ''16.21 et seq., which call for the production of documents or other information from office files.

Updated July 23, 2015

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