A qui tam lawsuit, typically called a whistleblower lawsuit, is brought under the False Claims Act, [FCA], 31 U.S.C. §3729, et. seq. The FCA authorizes bringing an action against any person or entity who knowingly submitted a false or fraudulent claim for payment to the federal government. The FCA also provides for rewarding whistleblowers successful in cases where the government recovers funds lost to fraud.
government may bring the FCA action, or a private citizen, known as a “Relator,” may bring a qui tam action “for the person and for the United States Government,” and “in the name of the Government.” United States
In this action the Relator, proceeding pro se,* brought the qui tam action on behalf of the
and United States , California , Connecticut , and Florida under color of the FCA.** New York
The federal district court dismissed the qui tam action because Relator, who was not an attorney, was not represented by counsel. Relator appealed the ruling to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Second Circuit.
Limiting its review to the dismissal of Realtor's action by the district court for failure to retain counsel, the Circuit Court opined:
1. "The right to appear pro se in civil litigation in federal court is guaranteed by 28 U.S.C. §1654, which provides that 'parties may plead and conduct their own cases personally or by counsel.'
2. "A person who is not an attorney and is not represented by an attorney 'may not appear on another person’s behalf in the other’s cause.'
3. "A non-attorney relator in an FCA qui tam action cannot proceed pro se because 'the United States remains the real party in interest in qui tam actions, the case, albeit controlled and litigated by the relator, is not the relator’s own case as required by 28 U.S.C. §1654, nor one in which he has an interest personal to him.'"
4. "The district court therefore did not err in dismissing this action after Relator failed to retain counsel, despite being granted ample opportunity to do so.
Although Relator argued on appeal that appointment of counsel by the district court was warranted, the Circuit Court of Appeals observed that Relator did not move for the appointment of counsel in the district court, and the district court was not required to sua sponte appoint counsel.
* A person who appears before the Court without an attorney to represent him is appearing pro se.
** The Circuit Court's decision notes that the Relator "did not move for appointment of counsel in the district court, and the court was not required to sua sponte appoint counsel."
The decision is posted on the Internet at: