Affirmatively Inefficient Jurisprudence?: Confusing Contractors’ Rights to Raise Affirmative Defenses with Sovereign Immunity
21 Federal Circuit Bar Journal 686 (2012)
41 Pages Posted: 12 Jun 2012 Last revised: 14 Jun 2012
Date Written: 2012
In M. Maropakis Carpentry v. United States, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upset the commonly understood rules of practice and procedure for government contracts dispute litigation. In what the Supreme Court might view as a drive-by jurisdictional ruling, the court held that a contractor must file its own claim for time extensions before it can defend against a government claim for liquidated damages. Two Court of Federal Claims cases then confirmed fears that the decision would create a significant, disruptive, and disadvantageous change in procedural posture for a large number of contractors defending against government claims. If unchecked, Maropakis may reflect one of the most significant changes in government-contracts litigation posture since the flurry of jurisdictional litigation following the late-1970s enactment of the Contract Disputes Act.
Courts make mistakes, but such errors need not indefinitely lead to inefficient, ineffective, or unfair results. The Federal Circuit should revisit the substance of Maropakis, en banc, at the first opportunity. Until then, contractor counsel should seek en banc review in any related cases or, where appropriate, consider amicus briefing. The Justice Department’s attorneys should exercise their discretion and refrain from exploiting Maropakis. Contractor counsel should craft arguments that persuade individual COFC judges to avoid the harsh and inefficient application of Maropakis. Administrative judges on the agency boards of contract appeals should stay the course and, if necessary, distinguish Maropakis. And, if the Federal Circuit fails to remedy the situation, Congress should craft and enact a legislative solution.
Keywords: Government contracts, Federal Circuit, affirmative defense, government claim, Contract Disputes Act, contract administration, fairness to contractors
JEL Classification: H57, K12, K41
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation