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Federal Judge Throws Out Case Pitting One U.S. Agency Against Another

May 3, 2009 — Can one part of the U.S. government in the Virgin Islands send, correctly, a legal document to another part of the U.S. government in the Virgin Islands if it tries repeatedly over more than three years?
Can it do so if more than $200,000 is at stake, and a federal judge is watching the entire process?
Not in a case before U.S. District Court Judge Curtis Gómez, who ruled April 24 that the Rural Housing Service, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has failed in such an effort. The judge dismissed the case filed by Rural Housing, formerly known as the Farmers' Home Administration, against the Small Business Administration.
Both the SBA and the RHS are, among other things, federal lending agencies. Both are involved, in a manner not totally clear, in a piece of real estate in which Diana David has an interest. David and the SBA are defendants in the case, with the RHS as the plaintiff.
Flavia E. Logie, a St. Thomas lawyer, is the losing attorney in the case; the defendants did not have lawyers.
The property is defined in the court records as:"Plot 98, Estate Bordeaux, West End Quarter, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands consisting of 0.3067 US acre." Rural Housing appears to be trying to foreclose on the property.
As of May 5, 2008, a total of $205,385 was owed in principal, accrued interest, a government subsidy, and various fees, with additional interest charges accumulating at the rate of of about $20 a day. This according to court records.
In his decision, Gómez provided a short history of the case, which reflects a series of missteps by all concerned. RHS first moved against SBA and David in September 2005, sending them summonses in connection with the moneys owed. In January 2006 RHS filed a supporting document with the court. In the next month it asked the court's permission to file an amended form of the earlier document, and the court agreed.
Meanwhile, according to the judge's order, "Neither David nor the SBA pled or otherwise defended within the time required by law."
So the court entered a decision by default against SBA and David. Apparently nothing happened for three years.
This past February, according to the judge's order, "After reviewing the records, the court became concerned that the SBA was not served" in an appropriate manner. If you want to sue a U.S. government agency, such as the SBA, you have to do so in a manner prescribed by law; this is the case even if the suer is another part of the government.
The court told RHS to try again. It did, but failed to meet the court's specifications on three separate occasions. Two of the submissions, the judge noted, differed only in the dates on them.
So the judge tossed out the government's case (RHS) against another part of the government ( SBA). David presumably stills owes the money and there will, presumably, be further developments.
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