Graham County Soil & Water Conservation District, et al. v. United States ex rel. Wilson  (08-304) 

Qui tam suit is barred by prior disclosure in county and state reports (7-2).
Decided March 30, 2010 
[Full opinion 

Karen Wilson was an employee of the Graham County Soil and Water Conservation District. She brought a qui tam suit under the federal False Claims Act against various entities alleging that they had made false claims against the United States. In a qui tam action an individual sues in the name of the United States and is allowed to keep a portion of the proceeds. However, there must not have been a prior public disclosure of the information of alleged wrongdoing that forms the basis of the suit. If there has been a prior public disclosure of information in an “administrative ... report ... audit, or investigation,” then the district court lacks jurisdiction over the case.

In this case, both the county and the State issued reports identifying potential irregularities. After those reports were issued, Wilson filed her qui tam action.

The US Supreme Court held that the reference to "administrative" reports, audits, and investigations encompasses disclosures made in state and local sources as well as federal sources. Therefore, the qui tam suit is barred.

Case below: United States ex rel. Wilson v. Graham County Soil & Water Conservation District, 528 F.3d 292 (4th Cir 06/09/2008) 
Official docket sheet 
Certiorari granted June 22, 2009.
Oral argument:  November 30, 2009. The Solicitor General participates in oral argument in this case. 

Question presented:   

Whether an audit and investigation performed by a State or its political subdivision constitutes an "administrative . . . report . . . audit, or investigation" within the meaning of the public disclosure jurisdictional bar of the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. § 3730(e)(4)(A). 

Certiorari Documents: 

Briefs on the merits: 

Counsel:

  • For Petitioners: Christopher G. Browning Jr.; North Carolina Department of Justice; P.O. Box 629; Raleigh, NC  27602; CBrowning@ncdoj.gov; (919) 716-6900.  
  • For Respondent: Mark T. Hurt; 159 West Main Street; Abingdon, VA  24210; (276) 623-0808.