Skip to main content

The Civil Division

The Civil Division represents the United States and its agencies in both defensive and affirmative civil litigation in federal and state courts.  It also handles bankruptcy litigation and a variety of other miscellaneous civil cases. 

Defensive Litigation

Civil Division Assistant U.S. Attorneys defend federal government parties from claims in a wide variety of cases.  For example, these defensive cases include: Federal Tort Claims Act lawsuits for injuries allegedly caused by the negligence of the federal government or its employees; claims by current or former federal employees alleging employment discrimination; challenges under the Administrative Procedures Act to decisions of federal agencies in administering various statutory and regulatory programs; complaints against individual federal officers for alleged violations of constitutional rights; challenges to immigration and deportation decisions; suits for the release of records under the Freedom of Information Act; and foreclosure litigation in which the United States has a lien interest.  

Affirmative Litigation

The Civil Division also investigates and brings civil actions against individuals and entities that defraud federal agencies and programs, violate the Controlled Substances Act, commit civil rights violations, or break other federal laws that have civil penalties.  Most of the fraud cases are brought under the federal False Claims Act and many involve health care fraud, government contract or grant fraud, mortgage fraud, or Social Security fraud.  Some of the fraud cases are initiated by private citizens, who can file whistleblower suits on behalf of the United States in appropriate circumstances.  The affirmative litigation team also works to hold accountable those who illegally discriminate on the basis of race, national origin, sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity), religion, or disability – among other characteristics – through lawsuits to enforce federal civil rights laws such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Housing Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.  Finally, the team uses civil litigation to enforce federal environmental laws including the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, among others.     

Bankruptcy Litigation

The Civil Division represents the financial interests of the United States in various types of bankruptcy proceedings involving individuals and corporations seeking bankruptcy protection in the United States Bankruptcy Court.  It ensures that the legitimate claims of federal agencies are protected in a way that debts are paid, in part or in whole.  The Civil Division works closely with debtors and other creditors to assemble plans in which remaining assets are fully identified, organized, and paid in order of priority.  It also undertakes or defends against “adversary” litigation to obtain judicial rulings on the existence, nature, and scope of debts owed to the United States.  

Other Civil Litigation

In addition to the types of cases described above, the Civil Division also handles a variety of other cases. For example, it represents federal employees and agencies subpoenaed for testimony or documents. It also petitions for enforcement of administrative subpoenas and summonses.

The Financial Litigation Program, which lies within the Criminal Division, uses a variety of tools, including civil litigation, to enforce both criminal and civil monetary judgments in favor of the United States; to collect and distribute court-imposed fines, assessments, and restitution; and to recover funds owed to the federal government under various benefits programs, including delinquent educational, corporate, and personal loans.  

Updated October 4, 2023