Supreme Court Reverses Lower Court and Holds That the Government Did Not Waive Its Sovereign Immunity Under the FCRA Pursuant to the Little Tucker Act

United States v. Bormes, 133 S. Ct. 12 (2012)

Facts: Plaintiff paid a filing fee with his credit card. The government processed the transaction through its pay.gov system. The online confirmation page contained the expiration date of Plaintiff’s credit card. The Plaintiff claimed that the display of his and similarly situated plaintiffs’ credit card information violated § 1681c(g)(1) of the FCRA. Plaintiff alleged jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1346(a)(2) (commonly referred to as the “Little Tucker Act”) and the FCRA’s own jurisdictional provision found in § 1681p. The government moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. The district court concluded that it had jurisdiction under the FCRA, but granted the government’s motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) on the grounds that the FCRA did not waive the federal government’s sovereign immunity. The district court further held that Plaintiff’s arguments for jurisdiction under the Little Tucker Act were moot because it had exercised jurisdiction under the jurisdictional provisions of the FCRA,. Plaintiff 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 FCRA could fairly be interpreted as mandating a right of recovery of damages. The government appealed to the Supreme Court which determined that the Little Tucker Act does not waive the Government’s sovereign immunity with respect to FCRA damages actions.

Subject Matter Jurisdiction. The Little Tucker Act is a gap filler that gives district courts jurisdiction, concurrent with the Court of Federal Claims, over any civil action (other than a tax refund) or claim against the United States that does not exceed $10,000 and is founded upon any act of Congress. Thus, the Little Tucker Act works as a jurisdictional provision that also operates to waive sovereign immunity for claims premised on other sources of law. However, statutory schemes with their own remedial framework, such as the FCRA, exclude alternative relief under the general terms of the Little Tucker Act.

Subject Matter Jurisdiction. Because the FCRA has a detailed remedial scheme, only its own text can determine whether the damages liability extends to the Federal Government. Therefore, the Supreme Court determined that the Little Tucker Act should not be applied to the sovereign immunity analysis for the FCRA. The Supreme Court remanded the case to the Seventh Circuit to determine whether the FCRA waives the Federal Government’s immunity to damages actions.