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Department of Army v. Blue Fox Inc.

January 20, 1999

DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY, PETITIONER
v.
BLUE FOX, INC.



SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

Syllabus

OCTOBER TERM, 1998

DEPARTMENT OF ARMY v. BLUE FOX, INC.

NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued. The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader. See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 200 U. S. 321, 337.

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES

DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY v. BLUE FOX, INC.

Certiorari To The United States Court Of Appeals For The Ninth Circuit

No. 97-1642.

Argued December 1, 1998

Decided January 20, 1999

Verdan Technology, Inc., an insolvent prime contractor, failed to pay respondent Blue Fox, Inc., a subcontractor, for work the latter completed on a construction project for petitioner, the Department of the Army. Because the Army did not require Verdan to post Miller Act bonds, Blue Fox sued the Army directly, asserting an equitable lien on certain funds held by the Army. Holding that the waiver of sovereign immunity in §10(a) of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U. S. C. §702, did not apply to Blue Fox's claim, the District Court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction and granted the Army summary judgment. The Ninth Circuit reversed in relevant part, holding that under Bowen v. Massachusetts, 487 U. S. 879, and this Court's cases examining a surety's right of subrogation, the APA waives immunity for equitable actions, thus compelling allowance of Blue Fox's equitable lien.

Held: Section 702 does not nullify the long settled rule that, unless waived by Congress, sovereign immunity bars creditors from enforcing liens on Government property. Although §702 waives the Government's immunity from actions seeking relief "other than money damages," the waiver must be strictly construed, in terms of its scope, in the sovereign's favor and must be "unequivocally expressed" in the statutory text. See Lane v. Peña, The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Justice Rehnquist

Rehnquist, C. J., delivered the opinion for a ...


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