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GRAHAM COUNTY SOIL & WATER CONSERVATION DISTRICT et al. v. UNITED STATES ex rel. WILSON, 545 U.S. ---

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GRAHAM COUNTY SOIL & WATER CONSERVATION DISTRICT et al. v. UNITED STATES ex rel. WILSON

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT

No. 04-169.Argued April 20, 2005--Decided June 20, 2005

The False Claims Act (FCA) prohibits a person from making false or fraudulent claims for payment to the United States. 31 U. S. C. §3729(a). That prohibition may be enforced in suits filed by the Attorney General, §3730(a), and in qui tam actions brought by private individuals in the Government's name, §3730(b)(1). A 1986 amendment to the FCA created a private cause of action for an individual retaliated against by his employer for assisting an FCA investigation or proceeding, §3730(h), and revised the FCA's statute of limitations, §3731(b). Section 3731(b) provides that "[a] civil action under section 3730 may not be brought ... more than 6 years after the date on which the violation of section 3729 is committed." In 2001, respondent Wilson brought an FCA qui tam action against petitioners, along with an FCA retaliation claim. Petitioner Graham County Soil and Water Conservation District employed Wilson as a secretary. Wilson alleged that petitioner county officials retaliated against her for alerting federal officials to the purported fraud and for cooperating with the ensuing investigation, ultimately forcing her 1997 resignation from the District. Petitioners successfully moved to dismiss the retaliation claim as untimely, on the ground that North Carolina's 3-year statute of limitations governed Wilson's FCA action and barred it. Reversing, the Fourth Circuit found it unnecessary to borrow a state limitations period because one was supplied by §3731(b)(1).

Held: Section 3731(b)(1)'s limitations period does not govern §3730(h) retaliation actions. Instead, the most closely analogous state statute of limitations applies. Pp. 4-13.


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