Anchors Aweigh! U.S. District Court Jurisdiction over Maritime Contract Disputes Act Claims
Fri Jul 14, 2017
Reproduced with permission from the American Bar Association and The Procurement Lawyer.
Maritime government contracting is a multi-billion dollar industry involving multiple government agencies.1 Most contractors are familiar with the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) 33.211 provision at the end of each contracting officer’s (CO’s) decision on a Contract Disputes Act (CDA) claim, but many do not understand the right to appeal a CO’s decision on a maritime contract claim to U.S. district court, under 41 U.S.C. § 7102(d):
This is the final decision of the Contracting Officer. You may appeal this decision to the agency board of contract appeals. If you decide to appeal, you must, within 90 days from the date you receive this decision, mail or otherwise furnish written notice to the agency board of contract appeals and provide a copy to the Contracting Officer from whose decision this appeal is taken. The notice shall indicate that an appeal is intended, reference this decision, and identify the contract by number. . . . Instead of appealing to the agency board of contract appeals, you may bring an action directly in the United States Court of Federal Claims (except as provided in 41 U.S.C. 7102(d), regarding Maritime Contracts) within 12 months of the date you receive this decision.2
No lesser authority than the U.S. Constitution states that federal judicial power extends to “all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction.”3 “These cases are as old as navigation itself; and the law, admiralty and maritime, as it has existed for ages, is applied by our Courts to the cases as they arise.”4
In keeping with this authority, under the CDA, an action appealing a CO final decision on a maritime contract claim may be filed directly in federal district court within 12 months.5 Under 41 U.S.C. § 7102(d), the jurisdictional hook for such district court jurisdiction over maritime contract CDA claims is the Suits in Admiralty Act (SAA), 46 U.S.C. §§ 30901 et seq.