Old man screwed by Supreme Court

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Got to wonder about some of their decisions... From the Denver Post comes this sad story:
Flats whistleblower skunked
The Supreme Court left an 81-year-old retired engineer without a penny to show for his role in exposing fraud at a former nuclear weapons plant in a ruling that makes it harder for whistle-blowers to claim cash rewards.

James Stone stood to collect up to $1 million from a lawsuit he filed in 1989 against Rockwell International, now part of aerospace giant Boeing Co., over problems with environmental cleanup at the now-closed Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant northwest of Denver.

A court eventually ordered Rockwell to pay the government nearly $4.2 million for false claims the company submitted. Stone could have received up to a quarter of Rockwell's payment, under the False Claims Act.

But Justice Antonin Scalia, writing in the 6-2 ruling Tuesday, said Stone was not entitled to recover any money because he lacked "direct and independent knowledge of the information upon which his allegations were based." Scalia said Stone had little connection to the jury's ultimate verdict against Rockwell.

The company must pay the entire penalty anyway. The only question before the court was whether Stone would get a cut.

The outcome was sought by business interests that were looking for the court to limit whistle-blowers in false claims lawsuits.
And some more about the specific case in question:
James Moorman, president of the advocacy group Taxpayers Against Fraud Education Fund, agreed. Individuals whose information leads the government to pursue fraud can be told years later that they can't collect anything, Moorman said.

"No whistle-blower can afford to pursue a case to resolution under these circumstances," he said.

The Bush administration sided with Stone, arguing that it was in the government's interest to encourage whistle-blowers, even though the government keeps more money now that Stone has lost.

Hartley Alley, a Colorado-based lawyer who represented Stone, said the decision fails to recognize the importance of Stone's actions at Rocky Flats, now a Superfund cleanup site. "He is the one primarily responsible for exposing the criminal activities of Rockwell International at Rocky Flats," Hartley said.

In nearly four decades, some 70,000 plutonium triggers for nuclear bombs were made at Rocky Flats. Production was halted in 1989 because of chronic safety problems, prompting a raid by FBI agents. The Cold War ended before production could resume.

The company pleaded guilty in 1992 to violating federal environmental laws.
I realize that the Supreme Court is a vital element of the governmental system of checks and balances set up by our founding fathers but I wonder about some of their decisions from time to time.

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This page contains a single entry by DaveH published on March 27, 2007 8:42 PM.

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