482 U. S. 64
June 1, 1987
Japanese Americans seeking reparations for internment filed a hybrid claim in the DC Court of Appeals. There was a Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) claim, and a Little Tucker Act claim as well. Usually the Federal Circuit would have jurisdiction for all Little Tucker claims, but the DC Circuit ruled that they could hear the case due to the presence of the FTCA claim.
The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the DC Circuit lacked jurisdiction, and sent it off to the Federal Circuit (Scalia did not participate). Powell wrote for the majority, and pointed out that the Federal Circuit was given jurisdiction for all claims based “in whole or in part” on the Little Tucker Act. Although the law conferring jurisdiction was not very clear about hybrid suits, Powell concluded that the quoted language was the best there was to go on. He also found evidence that Congress did not care as much about which courts handled FTCA claims, but were more particular about what jurisdiction they wanted for the Federal Circuit.
Blackmun wrote a concurring opinion. In it, he made the eminently reasonable observation that the whole jurisdiction issue was stupid, and that the merits ought to be addressed with minimal administrative delay. I totally agree, and it’s a shame he didn’t outright dissent. Most of the time, jurisdiction defects are asinine, and the United States should have been ashamed of delaying justice for internment victims over such a trivial matter. Nothing was gained, and thousands of dollars in legal fees were lost.