2. Exclusivity of 31 U.S.C. § 3901(d)(2).
Defendant also argues, in a footnote, that even if the Court
has federal question jurisdiction, plaintiffs' claims must fail
because they failed to bring a claim for the unpaid interest
under the laws and regulations of the District of Columbia, as
required by the PPA. § 3901(d)(2). Plaintiffs counter that under
the PPA, which states that a "claim . . . may be filed in the
same manner as claims are filed with respect to contracts to
provide property or services for the District of Columbia
Courts," they are allowed, but not required to so file. §
3901(d)(2) (emphasis added). Courts have often grappled with
whether "may" means may or shall. Shall and may are frequently
treated as synonyms and their meaning depends on context. See
Gutierrez de Martinez v. Lamagno, 515 U.S. 417, 434 n. 9, 115
S.Ct. 2227, 132 L.Ed.2d 375 (1995) (citing D. Mellinkoff,
Mellinkoff's Dictionary of American Legal Usage 402-402 (1992)).
May is most commonly used to indicate that an action is
permissive, or in the discretion of the actor. At times, may is
used to indicate that if an actor chooses a particular course
of action he must (or shall or is required to) do so in a
particular manner. The Supreme Court noted that "[t]he word
`may,' when used in a statute, usually implies some degree of
discretion, but this common-sense principle of statutory
construction can be defeated by indications of legislative
intent to the contrary or by obvious inferences from the
structure and purpose of the statute." Cortez Byrd Chips, Inc.
v. Bill Harbert Construction Co., 529 U.S. 193, 120 S.Ct. 1331,
146 L.Ed.2d 171 (2000) (internal citations omitted).
In this case, it is the Court's opinion that the disputed
language means that if a party wishes to file a claim for unpaid
interest, it must do so in the same manner as claims are filed
with respect to contracts to provide property or services for
either of the District of Columbia Courts. To construe this
language otherwise would render the language meaningless. See
Halverson v. Slater 129 F.3d 180, 185 (D.C.Cir. 1997) (quoting
Watt v. Alaska, 451 U.S. 259, 267, 101 S.Ct. 1673, 1678, 68
L.Ed.2d 80 (1981), which states that "[w]e must read the
statutes to give effect to each if we can do so while preserving
their sense and purpose"). If a party could file a claim in any
court with jurisdiction, then there would be no need for the
limiting language in § 3901(d)(2). Thus, § 3901(d)(2) must be
read to vest jurisdiction over claims for PPA interest against
the District of Columbia Courts in the local contracts dispute
resolution process, to the exclusion of this Court. See e.g.
A.E. Finley & Assoc., Inc. v. United States, 898 F.2d 1165,
1167 (6th Cir. 1990) (holding that "if an action rests within
the exclusive jurisdiction of another forum the district court
does not have jurisdiction regardless of other possible
statutory bases for such jurisdiction"); see also Violette v.
Smith & Nephew Dyonics, Inc., 62 F.3d 8, 11 (1st Cir. 1995)
(noting that "where Congress has designated another forum for
the resolution of a certain class of disputes . . . such
designation deprives the courts of jurisdiction to decide those
B. Declaratory Judgment Act
Plaintiffs also request declaratory relief. A request for
declaratory relief does not confer jurisdiction on this Court.
See, e.g., Continental Bank & Trust Co. v. Martin,
303 F.2d 214, 215 (D.C.Cir. 1962). However, the divestiture of
jurisdiction under § 3901(d)(2) only relates to the jurisdiction
of this Court to award monetary relief. As such, it does not
divest this Court of federal question jurisdiction over
requests for declaratory relief. Notwithstanding, a district
court may decline to exercise jurisdiction over a declaratory
action, even though subject-matter jurisdiction is proper. See
28 U.S.C. § 2201(a); Brillhart v. Excess, Ins. Co. of America,
316 U.S. 491, 494, 62 S.Ct. 1173, 86 L.Ed. 1620 (1942).
This Court will exercise its discretion and will not entertain
this suit for declaratory judgment. See Public Affairs Assoc.
v. Rickover, 369 U.S. 111, 82 S.Ct. 580, 7 L.Ed.2d 604 (1962);
Davis v. Bd. of Parole of Dept. of Justice, 306 F.2d 801
(D.C.Cir. 1962). When determining whether to exercise such
discretion, district courts analyze several factors of
relevance: 1) whether a decree would settle all aspects of the
uncertainty or controversy giving rise to the proceeding, see
Public Serv. Comm'n of Utah v. Wycoff Co., 344 U.S. 237, 243,
73 S.Ct. 236, 97 L.Ed. 291 (1952); Hanes Corp. v. Millard,
531 F.2d 585, 592 n. 4 (D.C.Cir. 1976); Gov't Employees Ins. Co. v.
Dizol, 133 F.3d 1220, 1225 (9th Cir. 1998); 2) whether a decree
would preempt and prejudge issues that are committed for initial
decision to an administrative body or special tribunal, see
Wycoff 344 U.S. at 243, 73 S.Ct. 236; and 3) whether the
request for declaratory judgment is an attempt to circumvent
exclusive jurisdiction elsewhere, where such relief would be
equivalent to monetary damages and the thrust of the suit is to
seek money, see Veda, Inc. v. United States Dep't of Air
Force, 111 F.3d 37, 39 (6th Cir. 1997); Marshall Leasing, Inc.
v. United States, 893 F.2d 1096, 1099 (9th Cir. 1990);
Eagle-Picher Indus., Inc. v. United States, 901 F.2d 1530,
1532 (10th Cir. 1990). Each of these considerations weigh
against plaintiffs' request.
Litigation of the remaining issue would result in piecemeal
litigation, if the plaintiffs are to remedy their alleged
injury. A judgment addressing when interest on CJA vouchers
begins to accrue will not result in any immediate payment to
plaintiffs. Rather, plaintiffs would still have to file a claim
under the District of Columbia's contracts dispute procedure.
Defendant could argue that the local system is not bound by this
Court's decision or that for some other reason this Court's
decision will not result in any additional payment to
plaintiffs. Therefore, the litigation here will not result in
the termination of litigation regarding this dispute between the
parties. Furthermore, plaintiffs can raise all the issues
present in this litigation through the District of Columbia's
contracts dispute system for resolution of the merits. See
Dizol 133 F.3d at 1225 (noting that district courts should use
their discretion to discourage litigants from filing declaratory
actions as a means of forum shopping). The judgment plaintiffs
seek may have a preclusive effect on the presentation of a claim
for interest under 31 U.S.C. § 3901(d)(2). As such, this Court
would be prejudging and preempting issues in a claim that
Congress specifically mandated should be heard in another forum.
In the final analysis, it would not be prudent for this Court to
expend limited judicial resources to resolve issues which would
not fully resolve the plaintiffs' claims. In view of the
foregoing, defendant's motion to dismiss is granted.