United States District Court for the District of Columbia
May 2, 2005.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, EX REL. R.C. TAYLOR III, Plaintiff,
MARIO GABELLI, et al., Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: RICHARD LEON, District Judge
Presently before the Court is defendants' Motion to Compel the
Federal Communications Commission ("FCC") to comply with a
subpoena pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 37 and
45.*fn1 Upon due consideration of the parties' submissions,
oral argument, and the entire record herein, the Court, for the
following reasons, DENIES the defendants' Motion.
The FCC asserts, as a threshold issue, that defendants' instant
motion should be denied because Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 45 ("Rule 45")
does not provide a basis upon which to compel the requested
discovery. FCC's Mem. in Opp'n to Defs.' Mot. to Compel ("FCC's
Opp'n Mem.") at 18. More specifically, the FCC argues that
because the United States is not a "real party in interest" to
the underlying action and the term "person" as used in Rule 45
does not include the federal government when it is not a party,
the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA"), 5 U.S.C. § 701, et
seq., is the defendants' only means to challenge the non-party
FCC's failure to comply with the subpoena at issue. Id. The
Court agrees, and for the following reasons DENIES the
The underlying law suit was filed by the relator, R.C. Taylor
III, "on behalf of the United States" in February 2001, but the
Department of Justice declined to intervene in the action in
October of that same year. Defs.' Mem. in Support of Mot. to
Compel ("Defs.' Mem.") at 4. Neither the defendants, nor this
Court, have found any case law, binding upon this Court, which
supports the proposition that the federal government is a real
party in interest to a qui tam action when it elects not to
intervene.*fn2 Indeed, if the federal government remains a real party in interest when it declines to intervene,
what sense is there in Congress providing them with the
declination option in the first instance? Simply stated,
Congress, to-date, has not seen fit to amend either existing qui
tam legislation or the APA, or both, to insure that the relevant
government agency remains a party in interest under Rule 45 when
the Department of Justice declines to intervene. Until Congress
does so, it is not the province of this Court to judicially amend
them by so deciding. See, e.g., Terrace Gardens Plaza, Inc. v.
N.L.R.B., 91 F.3d 222, 228 (D.C. Cir. 1996) (noting that "[i]t
is not the role of the court to promulgate new rules, or
exceptions to existing rules").
The Court's inquiry, however, does not end there because the
defendants argue in the alternative that the FCC can nonetheless
be compelled under Rule 45 to comply with the subpoena as a
"person" who has received a third-party subpoena. I disagree.
While our Circuit Court has held that no jurisdictional barriers
exist preventing a district court from ordering the federal
government to comply with a subpoena issued under Rule 45,
Linder v. Calero-Portocarrero, 251 F.3d 178, 180-81 (D.C. Cir.
2001),*fn3 it has not resolved the specific issue of whether
the word "person" in Rule 45 in fact includes the federal
government.*fn4 Id. at 181 (acknowledging that while its
"past decisions assumed that `person' includes the federal government," it has "never expressly so held"). In
Linder, the Circuit Court stated that the assumption that
"person" includes the federal government "may need to be
reexamined" after its decision in Al Fayed v. CIA, 229 F.3d 272
(D.C. Cir. 2000), which interpreted the use of "person" in
28 U.S.C. § 1782 to exclude the federal government. Id. at 181.
Indeed, the Supreme Court itself "has repeatedly held that the
word `person' in a statute does not include a sovereign
government absent affirmative evidence of such an inclusory
intent[,]" and "has construed prior similar language to exclude
the United States[.]" AlFayed, 229 F.3d at 274 (citing United
States v. United Mine Workers of America, 330 U.S. 258, 275
(1947)); see also Int'l Primate Prot. League v. Adm'rs of Tulane
Educ. Fund, 500 U.S. 72, 82-83 (1991) (noting that statutes
employing the word "person" are typically interpreted to exclude
the sovereign). And while this "longstanding interpretative
presumption that `person' does not include the sovereign" is not
"a hard and fast rule of exclusion," Vermont Agency of Natural
Resources v. United States ex rel. Stevens, 529 U.S. 1858,
1866-67 (2000), the party seeking to invoke the rule must offer a
sufficient basis to disregard the presumption, Int'l Primate,
500 U.S. at 83.
In this case, however, the defendants have not offered any
basis that would justify overriding this presumption. See Al
Fayed, 229 F.3d at 276-77 (noting that the plaintiff provided no
"affirmative evidence to disturb the presumption that `person'
excludes the sovereign"). Accordingly, the Court finds that the
term "person" in Rule 45, in the absence of a satisfactory basis
to override this interpretive presumption, does not include the
federal government. Thus, it is incumbent upon the defendants to employ
the APA to obtain the relevant discovery from the FCC.
For the foregoing reasons, the Court DENIES the defendants'
motion to compel. An appropriate order will issue with this