(CN) – A citizen who brings a case on behalf of the government is not entitled to the 60-day extended deadline for filing an appeal unless the government intervenes in the case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday.
Traditionally, appeals must be filed within 30 days of a district court judgment, and only the government is entitled to a 60-day deadline.
The justices refused to extend the deadline for a petitioner who filed a false claims action on behalf of the government, because the government declined to intervene.
Under the False Claims Act, individuals can sue on behalf of the government, also called a qui tam action. If the case is won, the individual shares any money recovered.
Irwin Einstein sued New York City under the False Claims Act, claiming the city’s non-resident fees reduced taxpayers’ federal tax obligation, thereby denying the federal government tax revenue.
But the federal government did not intervene, and the district judge ruled against Einstein.
Einstein filed for appeal 54 days after the district court’s decision, within what he thought was the 60-day limit. Einstein argued that he qualified for the 60-day deadline because he had brought the suit in the name of the government. The government was therefore a party to the suit, he argued.
The Supreme Court disagreed.
“We hold that when the United States has declined to intervene in a privately initiated FCA action, it is not a ‘party’ to the litigation,” Justice Thomas wrote for the unanimous court.
As a result, Einstein filed his appeal too late, the court concluded.