United States v. Hohri
482 U.S. 64 (1987)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Hohri, 482 U.S. 64 (1987)

United States v. Hohri

No. 86-510

Argued April 20, 1987

Decided June 1, 1987

482 U.S. 64

Syllabus

Title 28 U.S.C. § 1295(a)(2) gives the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit exclusive appellate jurisdiction over a variety of cases involving the Federal Government in which the District Court's jurisdiction was based, "in whole or in part," on 28 U.S.C. § 1346(a)(2), the Little Tucker Act, "except that jurisdiction of an appeal in a case brought in a district court under [the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA)] . . . shall be governed by" provisions vesting jurisdiction in the regional Federal Courts of Appeals. Respondents, a Japanese-American organization and individuals, brought suit in District Court seeking damages and declaratory relief for the tangible and intangible injuries suffered when, during World War II, the Federal Government removed approximately 120,000 Japanese-Americans from their homes and placed them in internment camps. Jurisdiction was based on the Little Tucker Act and the FTCA. The District Court concluded that all claims were barred, but the Court of Appeals reversed the dismissal of certain Little Tucker Act claims. The court held that it, rather than the Federal Circuit, had jurisdiction over the appeal. Although noting that § 1295(a)(2) generally grants the Federal Circuit exclusive jurisdiction of appeals in cases involving nontax Little Tucker Act claims, the court concluded that Congress did not intend the Federal Circuit to hear such appeals when they also included FTCA claims.

Held: The Federal Circuit, rather than the appropriate regional court of appeals, has jurisdiction over an appeal from a district court's decision of a "mixed" case raising both a nontax Little Tucker Act claim and an FTCA claim. 482 U. S. 68-76.

(a) Section 1295(a)(2) clearly establishes that the Federal Circuit has exclusive appellate jurisdiction of a case raising only a nontax Little Tucker Act claim, and that the appropriate regional court of appeals has exclusive appellate jurisdiction of a case raising only an FTCA claim. However, § 1295(a)(2)'s language does not clearly address a "mixed" case, and is thus inherently ambiguous on this point. 482 U. S. 68-69.

(b) Given this ambiguity, the more plausible reading of § 1295(a)(2) is the Solicitor General's view that the section's "except" clause merely describes claims that do not suffice to create Federal Circuit jurisdiction, and that, thus, such claims must be heard in that court if they are joined

Page 482 U. S. 65

with claims that fall within its exclusive jurisdiction. The proximity of the except clause to the "granting" clause at the beginning of § 1295(a)(2) suggests that the except clause's failure to repeat the granting clause's "in whole or in part" phrase in characterizing FTCA claims was not accidental. Moreover, the except clause's description of the excepted tax cases by reference to the basis of "the claim" suggests that the clause was directed at cases raising one, rather than multiple, claims. Respondents' contention that the except clause indicates not only that FTCA claims fail to create Federal Circuit jurisdiction but also that the presence of such a claim renders inapplicable that court's otherwise exclusive jurisdiction over nontax Little Tucker Act claims is not persuasive. Although it has some force, respondents' argument, which ultimately is based on a comparison of the language of the except clauses in §§ 1295(a)(2) and 1295(a)(1), is more attenuated than the Solicitor General's view that rests simply on the variation between § 1295(a)(2)'s own clauses. 482 U. S. 69-71.

(c) Given the comprehensive statutory framework, under which the Federal Circuit has exclusive jurisdiction over every appeal from a Tucker Act or nontax Little Tucker Act claim, and the legislative history's strong expressions of the need for judicial uniformity in this area, it seems likely that Congress would have rendered explicit any intended exceptions. 482 U. S. 71-73.

(d) Also unpersuasive is respondents' argument that a congressional intent to deprive the Federal Circuit in "mixed" cases of its exclusive jurisdiction over nontax Little Tucker Act claims is evidenced by a congressional Report statement that FTCA appeals, because they frequently involve application of state law, would continue to be brought in the regional courts of appeals. When viewed as a whole, the legislative history establishes that Congress intended for centralized determination of nontax Little Tucker Act claims to predominate over regional adjudication of FTCA claims. 482 U. S. 73-76.

251 U.S.App.D.C. 145, 782 F.2d 227, vacated and remanded.

POWELL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which all other Members joined, except SCALIA, J., who took no part in the consideration or decision of the case. BLACKMUN, J., filed a concurring opinion, post p. 482 U. S. 76.

Page 482 U. S. 66

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