Thursday, January 11, 2007

Delay v. Gordon (9th Cir. - Jan. 11, 2007)

Thinking about suing an agency of the United States? Even on a meritorious claim? Then read this case.

It's about William Delay's efforts to obtain -- and then collect upon -- a judgment against the agency of the United States government (the Pacific Northwest River Basins Commission) for which he previously worked. The Commission wrongfully terminated Delay's employment in 1978, and Delay promptly sued. The United States responded to this suit by making sure that it kept bouncing between the Oregon district court and the Claims Court, and did so by arguing, first, that Delay's contract was with the United States, and hence had to be heard in the Claims Court, and then, once the suit was in the Claims Court, arguing the exact opposite.

These (and other) procedural moves kept the case moving around until 1985, at which point Delay prevailed at trial and obtained a judgment of over $140,000 for wrongful termination. But, by this time, President Reagan had abolished the Commission, and most of its money had been disbursed. The Commission had $28,000 left, held by the OMB, but the OMB refused to release it, even though Delay was clearly entitled to it. Thereafter, when Delay tried to garnish this sum, the United States convinced the district court that sovereign immunity barred such an attempted garnishment. Delay worked hard and got a California Congressman to sponsor a private bill, but it failed to get out of committee. Then Delay filed a Rule 60(b)(6) motion to make the United States a party to the judgment as the real party in interest, but the district court denied the motion, and, in this case, Judge Gould affirms.

So basically plaintiff was illegally fired in 1978 -- twenty eight years ago -- and, after a jury trial, obtained a judgment over two decades ago. But has still been unable to collect a dime.

Oh, by the way, in the meantime, in 1998, the plaintiff died. And, in 2003, his wife died as well. So the only people who have survived the United States' consistent (and heartless) efforts to make sure that these people never collect upon their rightful judgment are plaintiff's children. And, at this point, barring a miracle, I highly doubt that the children will have any more success at obtaining justice than their deceased parents did.


One more thing. The name of the plaintiff is pretty ironic, huh? Delay.