Argument analysis: Sorting out a thorny statute-of-limitations question in False Claims Act case

The Supreme Court engaged in a relatively lively argument today over a thorny issue of statutory interpretation under the False Claims Act: how two separate statute-of-limitations provisions apply to whistleblower, or “qui tam,” actions when the federal government has not intervened in a suit brought by a private party, or relator. “These types of actions are exceptional in many ways,” Chief Justice John Roberts observed about the qui tam suits brought under the 1863 statute that was meant to battle rampant fraud by contractors during the Civil War. Theodore J. Boutrous Jr. for petitioners (Art Lien) Cochise Consultancy Inc. v. United States, ex rel. Hunt stems from a more recent period of U.S. military history — the deployment of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. Whistleblower Billy Joe Hunt alleges that Cochise Consultancy and another defense contractor defrauded the federal government in a contract to clean up munitions left behind by Iraqi…

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