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Court of Federal Claims

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Title: Court of Federal Claims  
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Subject: Appellate court, Palmyra Atoll, David Gustafson, CEMS, Inc. v. United States
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Court of Federal Claims

The United States Court of Federal Claims (in case citations, Fed. Cl. or C.O.F.C.) is a United States federal court that hears monetary claims against the U.S. government. The court is established pursuant to Congress's authority under Article One of the United States Constitution. Unlike judges of courts established under Article Three of the United States Constitution, judges on the Court of Federal Claims do not have life tenure (see Article I and Article III tribunals). Instead they serve for 15-year terms[1] and are eligible for reappointment. The President appoints the judges of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims with the Senate's advice and consent.[2] The judges are removable by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit for "incompetency, misconduct, neglect of duty, engaging in the practice of law, or physical or mental disability." [3]

The court house of the Court of Federal Claims is situated in the Howard T. Markey National Courts Building (on Madison Place across from the White House) in Washington, D.C.


The court was formed on October 1, 1982, as the United States Claims Court (in case citations, Cl. Ct.) and it is a successor to the trial division of the United States Court of Claims.[4] The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 gave the court the authority to create an Office of Special Masters to receive and hear certain vaccine injury cases, and the jurisdiction to review those cases.[5] On October 28, 1992, the name of the court was changed to the United States Court of Federal Claims.[6]


The court has special This limitation is strictly construed by the court.

The court has concurrent jurisdiction involving contracts with the federal government, where a contractor has the option of choosing between filing suit with the court or with the agency Board of Contract Appeals. The general rule is that a contractor may either 1) file suit within 90 days with the agency Board of Contract Appeals or 2) file suit within one year with the court. A contractor, however, must choose which forum in which to file; a contractor cannot file suit with both the agency Board and with the court. (However, in a case where a contractor has filed with the Board, and the Government challenges the timeliness of the filing — the 90-day limit is statutory and cannot be extended — the contractor can file with the court within the one-year period to protect its claims.)

Unlike district courts, which generally only have jurisdiction over disputes in their geographic district, the COFC has jurisdiction over disputes wherever they occur in the country. To accommodate litigants, judges on the court may hold trials at local courthouses near where the disputes arise.[9]

All trials at the court are bench trials, without juries. Because the court only hears cases against the Government, the United States is always the defendant in cases before the COFC.

The court receives a variety of claims against the government, including breach of contract claims, illegal exaction claims, takings claims under the 5th Amendment, claims involving military pay, claims for patent and copyright infringement against the government, federal tax refund claims, and protests regarding contract bidding procedures. According to the Court, tax refund suits make up a quarter of the claims brought before it, although the court exercise concurrent jurisdiction with United States district courts in this area.

Orders and judgments from the court are appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which resides in the same building as the COFC.

Congressional references

The court also may hear congressional reference cases, which are cases referred to the court by either house of Congress. The judge serving as hearing officer renders a report as to the case's merits, which is reviewed by a panel of judges formed for that purpose. The report is forwarded back to the chamber of Congress requesting it.[10]


Current judges

Judge Appointed Chief Appointed by
Patricia E. Campbell-Smith 2013 2013 - Present[11] Obama (as judge and Chief Judge)
Marian Blank Horn 1986
—— Reagan
G.W. Bush
Edward J. Damich 1998 2002 - 2009 Clinton
G.W. Bush (as Chief Judge)
Francis M. Allegra 1998 —— Clinton
Lynn J. Bush 1998 —— Clinton
Nancy B. Firestone 1998 —— Clinton
Lawrence J. Block 2002 —— G.W. Bush
Susan G. Braden 2003 —— G.W. Bush
Charles F. Lettow 2003 —— G.W. Bush
Mary Ellen Coster Williams 2003 —— G.W. Bush
Victor J. Wolski 2003 —— G.W. Bush
George W. Miller 2004 —— G.W. Bush
Margaret M. Sweeney 2005 —— G.W. Bush
Thomas C. Wheeler 2005 —— G.W. Bush
Elaine D. Kaplan 2013 —— Obama

Senior judges

  • Eric G. Bruggink, 1986-2001
  • Bohdan A. Futey, 1987-2002
  • Reginald W. Gibson, 1982-1995
  • Robert H. Hodges, Jr., 1990-2005
  • Thomas J. Lydon, 1982-1987
  • Lawrence S. Margolis 1982-1997
  • James F. Merow, 1982-1998
  • Loren A. Smith, 1985-2000, Chief Judge 1985-2000
  • John Paul Wiese, 1982-2001
  • Robert J. Yock, 1982-1998

Past judges

  • Alex Kozinski, 1982-1985, Chief Judge 1982-1985 (elevated to the Ninth Circuit)
  • Joseph V. Colaianni, 1982-1984
  • Lloyd Fletcher, 1982-1982
  • Kenneth R. Harkins, 1982-1987
  • Roald A. Hogeson, 1982-1988
  • Harry E. Wood, 1982-1986
  • Judith Ann Yannello, 1982-1987
  • Philip R. Miller, 1982-1986
  • David Schwartz, 1982-1982
  • Robert M. M. Seto, 1982-1987
  • Louis Spector, 1982-1983
  • Mastin G. White, 1982-1982
  • George Willi, 1982-1982
  • Moody R. Tidwell, III, 1983-1998
  • John Light Napier, 1986-1989
  • Wilkes C. Robinson, 1987-1997
  • Randall Ray Rader, 1988-1990 (elevated to the Federal Circuit)
  • Diane Gilbert Sypolt, 1990-2005
  • Christine Odell Cook Miller, 1988–2013
  • Lawrence M. Baskir, 1998–2013
  • Emily C. Hewitt, 1998-2013, Chief Judge 2009 – 2013



  • The United States Court of Federal Claims handbook and procedures manual by David B. Stinson. 2nd ed. Washington, D.C.: Bar Association of the District of Columbia, 2003.
  • The United States Court of Federal Claims : a deskbook for practitioners by United States Court of Federal Claims Bar Association. 4th ed. Washington, D.C.: The Bar Association, 1998.

External links

  • Website of the United States Court of Federal Claims
  • Papers of Franklin M. Stone, former judge, U.S. Court of Claims, Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library
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