Determining if whistleblower cases have merit is an important job of the Department of Justice.
In all whistleblower cases (also known as qui tam actions), the Department of Justice has a decision to make. Even though a private citizen brings the qui tam action and not the United States government, the DOJ will have the option of joining the case and pursuing a financial recovery from the alleged defrauder. In many situations, the DOJ joins, but sometimes it doesn’t. When it doesn’t, the private citizen (called a relator), can usually continue to pursue the qui tam action independently.
The Department of Justice may take steps to dismiss the relator’s case and stop the qui tam action from continuing. But what exactly makes the Department of Justice conclude that a qui tam action isn’t valid? And what would make the DOJ believe the qui tam action should end as soon as possible?
Legal Arguments or Facts Are Frivolous
What if the Department of Justice concludes the legal or factual basis for the qui tam lawsuit is frivolous? Then they will conclude it is a meritless case. At the very least, the DOJ will decline to intervene. In some instances, they may actually try to end the qui tam action. For example, imagine if a relator believed that former President Obama wasn’t legally the President of the United States and therefore, all his actions were violations of the False Claims Act. In this situation, the DOJ would not join the relator’s case and would likely try to dismiss it.
The Qui Tam Action Overlaps with Another Investigation
Federal law is clear in that a relator may not bring a qui tam action regarding a particular fraud if there is already a qui tam action pending concerning that specific fraud. But what happens if a qui tam action concern facts and fraudulent activity that the Department of Justice or United States government is only investigating? In this situation, the DOJ will question the usefulness of the qui tam action and will probably either decline to intervene or try to dismiss the case.
The Whistleblower Case Jeopardizes National Security
The False Claims Act commonly involves defense contractors that produce products and provide services for the United States military. If a qui tam action threatens the military’s ability to continue obtaining a certain weapon or technology, the Department of Justice may choose not to help the relator.
The Relator’s Case Complicates the Department of Justice’s Goals
If a qui tam action has the potential to complicate the Department of Justice’s legal mission, it may view the relator’s case as lacking merit. For example, if the relator’s case has the potential to create case law that makes it harder for the DOJ to win another case, then the Department of Justice may try to dismiss the relator’s qui tam case or at the very least, not join it. This sounds contradictory, but a bit of background can help clear things up.
In the United States, the “law” is more than just statutes written in a book. It also includes court decisions (commonly referred to as case law). It interprets that law and provides further details as to what the law means. A federal statute might say “employment discrimination on the basis of race is illegal.” Does that prohibit racial discrimination of a job applicant who is not yet an employee? When a court case answers that question, it creates case law.
When it comes to racial discrimination, federal law exists not just in the statute, but that particular court decision. Therefore, understanding the law involves not just reading statutes, but court decisions as well.
Should a court come down with a decision that explains the law in a way that the Department of Justice doesn’t like, it will do what it can to prevent that from happening. If a relator brings a qui tam case that creates case law that goes against the DOJ’s mission, then it may take the position that the relator’s case lacks merit.
The False Claims Act Lawsuit Involves Classified Information
If the qui tam action involves the disclosure of classified information, the Department of Justice will probably try to prevent the exposure. In this situation, the Department of Justice may decline to intervene. Or they may take steps to make the relator lose his or her case.
Not Sure If You Have a Valid Qui Tam Case?
Contact our team of skilled whistleblower case attorneys at Bothwell Law Group by calling 770.643.1606 today.