United States v. Bormes

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page 1, slip opinion


NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued. The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader. See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 200 U. S. 321, 337.





No. 11–192. Argued October 2, 2012—Decided November 13, 2012

Respondent Bormes, an attorney, filed suit against the Federal Government, alleging that the electronic receipt he received when paying his client's federal-court filing fee on Pay.gov included the last four digits of his credit card number and the card's expiration date, in willful violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), 15 U. S. C. §1681 et seq. He sought damages under §1681n and asserted jurisdiction under §1681p, as well as under the Little Tucker Act, which grants district courts "original jurisdiction, concurrent with the United States Court of Federal Claims, of . . . [a]ny. . . civil action or claim against the United States, not exceeding $10,000 in amount, founded . . . upon . . . any Act of Congress," 28 U. S. C. §1346(a)(2). In dismissing the suit, the District Court held that FCRA did not explicitly waive the Federal Government's sovereign immunity. Bormes appealed to the Federal Circuit, which vacated the District Court's decision, holding that the Little Tucker Act provided the Government's consent to suit because the underlying statute—FCRA—could fairly be interpreted as mandating a right of recovery in damages.

Held: The Little Tucker Act does not waive the Government's sovereign immunity with respect to FCRA damages actions. Pp. 4–11.

(a) The Little Tucker Act and its companion statute, the Tucker Act, provide the Federal Government's consent to suit for certain money-damages claims "premised on other sources of law," United States v. Navajo Nation, 556 U. S. 287, 290. The general terms of the Tucker Acts are displaced, however, when a law imposing monetary liability has its own judicial remedies. In that event, the specific remedial scheme establishes the exclusive framework for determining the scope of liability under the statute. See, e.g., Hinck v. United States, 550 U. S. 501. Pp. 4–7.

page 2, slip opinion (b) FCRA is such a statute. Its detailed remedial scheme sets "out a carefully circumscribed, time-limited, plaintiff-specific" cause of action, and "also precisely define[s] the appropriate forum," 550 U. S., at 507. FCRA authorizes aggrieved consumers to hold "any person" who "willfully" or "negligent[ly]" fails to comply with the Act's requirements liable for specified damages, 15 U. S. C. §§1681n(a), 1681o; requires enforcement claims to be brought within a specified limitations period, §1681p; and provides that jurisdiction will lie "in any appropriate United States district court, without regard to the amount in controversy," ibid. Because FCRA enables claimants to pursue monetary relief in court without resort to the Tucker Act, only its own text can determine whether Congress unequivocally intended to impose the statute's damages liability on the Federal Government. Pp. 7–10.

626 F. 3d 574, vacated and remanded.

Scalia, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

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