482 U.S. 64 (1987), 86-510, United States v. Hohri

Docket Nº:No. 86-510
Citation:482 U.S. 64, 107 S.Ct. 2246, 96 L.Ed.2d 51, 55 U.S.L.W. 4716
Party Name:United States v. Hohri
Case Date:June 01, 1987
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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482 U.S. 64 (1987)

107 S.Ct. 2246, 96 L.Ed.2d 51, 55 U.S.L.W. 4716

United States

v.

Hohri

No. 86-510

United States Supreme Court

June 1, 1987

Argued April 20, 1987

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR

THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Title 28 U.S.C. § 1295(a)(2) gives the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit exclusive appellate jurisdiction over a variety of cases involving the Federal Government in which the District Court's jurisdiction was based, "in whole or in part," on 28 U.S.C. § 1346(a)(2), the Little Tucker Act, "except that jurisdiction of an appeal in a case brought in a district court under [the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA)] . . . shall be governed by" provisions vesting jurisdiction in the regional Federal Courts of Appeals. Respondents, a Japanese-American organization and individuals, brought suit in District Court seeking damages and declaratory relief for the tangible and intangible injuries suffered when, during World War II, the Federal Government removed approximately 120,000 Japanese-Americans from their homes and placed them in internment camps. Jurisdiction was based on the Little Tucker Act and the FTCA. The District Court concluded that all claims were barred, but the Court of Appeals reversed the dismissal of certain Little Tucker Act claims. The court held that it, rather than the Federal Circuit, had jurisdiction over the appeal. Although noting that § 1295(a)(2) generally grants the Federal Circuit exclusive jurisdiction of appeals in cases involving nontax Little Tucker Act claims, the court concluded that Congress did not intend the Federal Circuit to hear such appeals when they also included FTCA claims.

Held: The Federal Circuit, rather than the appropriate regional court of appeals, has jurisdiction over an appeal from a district court's decision of a "mixed" case raising both a nontax Little Tucker Act claim and an FTCA claim. Pp. 68-76.

(a) Section 1295(a)(2) clearly establishes that the Federal Circuit has exclusive appellate jurisdiction of a case raising only [107 S.Ct. 2248] a nontax Little Tucker Act claim, and that the appropriate regional court of appeals has an FTCA claim. However, § 1295(a)(2)'s language does not clearly address a "mixed" case, and is thus inherently ambiguous on this point. Pp. 68-69.

(b) Given this ambiguity, the more plausible reading of § 1295(a)(2) is the Solicitor General's view that the section's "except" clause merely describes claims that do not suffice to create Federal Circuit jurisdiction, and that, thus, such claims must be heard in that court if they are joined

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with claims that fall within its exclusive jurisdiction. The proximity of the except clause to the "granting" clause at the beginning of § 1295(a)(2) suggests that the except clause's failure to repeat the granting clause's "in whole or in part" phrase in characterizing FTCA claims was not accidental. Moreover, the except clause's description of the excepted tax cases by reference to the basis of "the claim" suggests that the clause was directed at cases raising one, rather than multiple, claims. Respondents' contention that the except clause indicates not only that FTCA claims fail to create Federal Circuit jurisdiction but also that the presence of such a claim renders inapplicable that court's otherwise exclusive jurisdiction over nontax Little Tucker Act claims is not persuasive. Although it has some force, respondents' argument, which ultimately is based on a comparison of the language of the except clauses in §§ 1295(a)(2) and 1295(a)(1), is more attenuated than the Solicitor General's view that rests simply on the variation between § 1295(a)(2)'s own clauses. Pp. 69-71.

(c) Given the comprehensive statutory framework, under which the Federal Circuit has exclusive jurisdiction over every appeal from a Tucker Act or nontax Little Tucker Act claim, and the legislative history's strong expressions of the need for judicial uniformity in this area, it seems likely that Congress would have rendered explicit any intended exceptions. Pp. 71-73.

(d) Also unpersuasive is respondents' argument that a congressional intent to deprive the Federal Circuit in "mixed" cases of its exclusive jurisdiction over nontax Little Tucker Act claims is evidenced by a congressional Report statement that FTCA appeals, because they frequently involve application of state law, would continue to be brought in the regional courts of appeals. When viewed as a whole, the legislative history establishes that Congress intended for centralized determination of nontax Little Tucker Act claims to predominate over regional adjudication of FTCA claims. Pp. 73-76.

251 U.S.App.D.C. 145, 782 F.2d 227, vacated and remanded.

POWELL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which all other Members joined, except SCALIA, J., who took no part in the consideration or decision of the case. BLACKMUN, J., filed a concurring opinion, post p. 76.

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POWELL, J., lead opinion

JUSTICE POWELL delivered the opinion of the Court.

In this case, we must decide which court -- the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit or the appropriate regional Court of Appeals -- has jurisdiction over an appeal from a Federal District Court's decision of a case raising both a nontax claim under the Little Tucker Act and a claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA).

I

During World War II, the Government of the United States removed approximately 120,000 Japanese-Americans from their homes and placed them in internment camps. Respondents are an organization [107 S.Ct. 2249] of Japanese-Americans and 19 individuals -- former internees and their representatives. They filed this action in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, seeking damages and declaratory relief for the tangible and intangible injuries suffered because of this incident. Jurisdiction was based on, inter alia, the Little Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1346(a)(2),1 and the FTCA,

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28 U.S.C. § 1346(b). The District Court concluded that all claims were barred either by sovereign immunity or the applicable statute of limitations. 586 F.Supp. 769 (1984).

Respondents appealed to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. That court reversed the District Court's dismissal of certain claims under the Little Tucker Act. 251 U.S.App.D.C. 145, 782 F.2d 227 (1986). First, the court concluded that it, rather than the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, had jurisdiction over the appeal. It noted that 28 U.S.C. § 1295(a)(2) generally grants the Federal Circuit exclusive jurisdiction of appeals in cases involving nontax claims under the Little Tucker Act. But it concluded that Congress did not intend the Federal Circuit to hear appeals of such cases when they also included FTCA claims. Id. at 157-158, 782 F.2d at 239-241. On the merits, the court concluded that the statute of limitations did not begin to run on certain of respondents' Little Tucker Act claims until 1980, when Congress created the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians. Id. at 171, 782 F.2d at 253. Chief Judge Markey, sitting by designation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 291(b), filed a dissent, disagreeing with the court's jurisdictional analysis as well as its decision as to the statute of limitations. Id. at 174-175, 782 F.2d at 256-263. A petition for rehearing en banc was denied by a 6-to-5 vote. 253 U.S.App.D.C. 233, 793 F.2d 304 (1986). Judge Bork, joined by four other judges, filed a dissent from denial of the petition, in which he disagreed with both of the court's conclusions. Id. at 233-234, 793 F.2d at 304-313.

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Because of the potentially broad impact of the Court of Appeals' decision and because of the importance of the jurisdictional question, we granted the Government's petition for a writ of certiorari. 479 U.S. 960 (1986). We conclude that the Court of Appeals did not have jurisdiction, and therefore do not address the merits of its decision.2

II

In 1982, Congress passed the Federal Courts Improvement Act, creating the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Among other things, the Act grants the Federal Circuit exclusive appellate jurisdiction over a variety of cases involving the Federal Government. 28 U.S.C. § 1295(a)(2). Specifically, the Act provides:

The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit shall have exclusive jurisdiction --

* * * *

[107 S.Ct. 2250]

(2) of an appeal from a final decision of a district court of the United States . . . if the jurisdiction of that court was based, in whole or in part, on section 1346 of this title, except that jurisdiction of an appeal in a case brought in a district court under section 1346(a)(1), 1346(b), 1346(e), or 1346(f) of this title or under section 1346(a)(2) when the claim is [related to federal taxes] shall be governed by sections 1291, 1292, and 1294 of this title.

This section establishes two undisputed propositions relevant to this case. First, the Federal Circuit has exclusive appellate jurisdiction of a case raising only a nontax claim under the Little Tucker Act, § 1346(a)(2). Second, the appropriate regional Court of Appeals -- in this case, the Court of Appeals

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for the District of Columbia Circuit -- has exclusive appellate jurisdiction under §§ 1291, 1292, and 1294 of a case raising only a claim under the FTCA, § 1346(b).

This case presents claims under both the Little Tucker Act and the FTCA, a situation not specifically addressed by § 1295(a)(2). Resolution of this problem turns on interpretation of the second clause of this subsection, the so-called "except clause." The Solicitor General contends that the except clause merely describes claims that do not suffice to create jurisdiction in the Federal Circuit. Thus, he argues, appeals of FTCA claims must be heard in the Federal Circuit if, as in...

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