Retaliation Against James Stone - Rocky Flats Whistleblower
Rockwell operates the Rocky Flats nuclear-weapons facility under a contract with the Department of Energy. James Stone was an engineer there, until he was fired. He then told an FBI agent of environmental violations at the facility. The agent began an investigation and found a number of violations. These findings received a lot of press coverage. Ultimately Rockwell pled guilty to ten criminal violations.
(Rockwell v. U.S.)
In the meantime, Stone had filed a qui tam lawsuit under the False Claims Act, accusing Rockwell of falsely representing to DOE that it had complied with applicable environmental, safety, and health requirements. The Act allows a private citizen to bring suit, standing in the shoes of the government and receiving a bounty for successfully vindicating the rights of the defrauded federal government. But the Act requires that the private citizen, the relator, be the “original source” of the information concerning the alleged fraud. Obviously, Congress did not want every person who reads an expose in the NY Times to be eligible to file a qui tam action. In this case, Stone was the original source of the basic information that sparked the investigation, but not of all the details concerning Rockwell’s misrepresentations to DOE. The district court allowed the suit to proceed and the jury returned a verdict for Stone and for the United States. On appeal, the Tenth Circuit held that Stone’s disclosures to the FBI were sufficient to qualify him as an “original source.”
Rockwell petitioned for certiorari in the Supreme Court. The U.S. opposed Supreme Court review, arguing essentially that there was no real split in authority among the lower courts that warranted the Supreme Court’s attention. I have attached the Solicitor General’s brief. Even if it may not have direct bearing on all of your interests, it is a fairly objective summary of the issues in the case. The Court granted review anyway on Sept. 26.
- U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-2 that James Stone, an 81-year-old retired engineer, may not collect a penny for his role in exposing fraud at the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant. Justice Antonin Scalia said Sotne was not an original source of information.
- Brief of U.S. Government in Opposition to Petition for Writ of Certiorari
- American Hospital Association Brief Asking U.S. Supreme Court to Overturn Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals Decision