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Order Prohibiting Govt Defense in Nuclear Fuel Storage Case Valid

A writ of mandamus issued by the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit had res judicata effect in an action before the Court of Federal Claims for breach of the standard contract for spent nuclear fuel storage, because the DC Circuit had statutory jurisdiction, which waived sovereign immunity, and the DC Circuit's decision did not intrude on the CFC's jurisdiction to address the breach claim. At issue was the effect of the DC Circuit's holding the government had an unconditional obligation under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act to begin accepting nuclear waste from utilities by 1998, and the court's order barring the government from defending its failure to meet the deadline under the contract's "Unavoidable Delays" clause (Northern States Power Co. v. Department of Energy 128 F3d 754). The CFC held the DC Circuit's rulings were void because the court lacked jurisdiction to issue the mandamus order without a waiver of sovereign immunity (50 CCF 78,653).

No Intrusion on Jurisdiction

In an en banc decision with one concurring and one dissenting opinion, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed and remanded. The court disagreed with all of the CFC's reasons for voiding the mandamus order. Precedent from the Federal Circuit (50 CCF 78,623) and other circuits did not support the CFC's limitation of the grant of appellate court jurisdiction under section 119 of the NWPA. The CFC also erred in applying the Administrative Procedure Act's "no adequate remedy" requirement to statutory review provisions such as section 119 and concluding there was no waiver of sovereign immunity. Finally, the DC Circuit's decision did not intrude on the CFC's jurisdiction to address the breach of contract claim. The mandamus order prohibited the government from using contract interpretation to avoid its statutory obligations but left all issues of contract breach, enforcement, and remedy to be determined in the litigation before the CFC. (Nebraska Public Power District v. U.S., CA-FC, 54 CCF 79,244)




(The news featured above is a selection from the news covered in the Government Contracts Report Letter, which is published weekly and distributed to subscribers of the Government Contracts Reporter. )


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