HR 992 -- 03/11/98

March 11, 1998

H.R. 992 - Tucker Act Shuffle Relief Act of 1997
(Rep. Smith (R) TX and 51 others)

The Administration is fully committed to the protection of private property, including the payment of just compensation under the Fifth Amendment when private property is taken for public use. The Administration is also committed to streamlining and expediting federal court litigation. However, H.R. 992 presents constitutional concerns, would waste valuable judicial resources, and would lead to significant instability in the law. The Attorney General, the Secretary of the Interior, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality would recommend that the President veto H.R. 992, as reported by the House Judiciary Committee.

H.R. 992 would raise serious constitutional concerns by empowering the U.S. Court of Federal Claims (CFC), a non-Article III tribunal, to grant injunctive relief in a broad range of suits challenging federal agency action. The bill would give judges extensive authority to issue injunctions that would bind executive branch officials, authority normally reserved to judges who serve on Article III courts.

H.R. 992 would provide that, by making a takings claim, a litigant can ensure that the trial court's entire decision will be reviewed by the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. This could promote forum-shopping and dramatically increase the power of the Federal Circuit at the expense of other circuits.

H.R. 992 also could override the "preclusive review" provisions found in many federal statutes, including environmental laws. These provisions allow for the swift and orderly resolution of challenges to federal actions by providing specific courts with jurisdiction to review these challenges. By overriding these provisions, H.R. 992 would deprive affected businesses and the public of the certainty needed to plan actions.

By repealing 28 U.S.C. Section 1500 -- which prevents the United States from being sued on the same claim in two different courts at the same time -- H.R. 992 would allow claimants to manipulate federal court jurisdiction and waste scarce judicial resources. Instead, the Administration would support a proposal to allow property owners to consolidate their takings claims and other claims in Federal District Courts, where appropriate.

The Administration understands that Representative Watt and Representative Rothman will be offering an amendment that addresses the Administration's constitutional and other concerns. The Administration would support the Watt/Rothman amendment.