Feds Spent Billions to Resolve Suits in 2012

The federal government has spent more than $4 billion this year to resolve various lawsuits. The Treasury Department has put together an obscure database titled the Judgment Fund that outlines the devastating mistakes that are made by government workers and how much those mistakes cost the government. They range from mistakes made by air-traffic controllers to notable and profound policy failures.

Some policy failures have been authorized by the Department of Energy. For example, they began breaching their contracts with multiple utilities to store spent nuclear fuel. The government had an obligation to begin storing fuel in 1998, however since the Obama administration cancelled the proposed site in 2010; this has not been the case.

The Judgment Fund also shines various payments in terms of institutionalized discrimination. According to the database, both the Interior and Treasury departments have spent a total combined $2.5 billion of taxpayer dollars in part of a class action settlement. The case, Cobell v. Salazar, was brought by Native Americans who asserted that the federal government spends decades mismanaging their trust accounts thus cheating them out of land royalties.

Overall, the No. 1 reason people sue the government is for traffic accidents. These suits are mostly due to government workers who crash government cars while on duty. The payments range from a few dollars to $10 million. Just last year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation was plagued by accident-prone drivers that resulted in 210 crash settlements.

When compared to the private sector, public agencies do not feel direct pain from their legal expenses. The various legal payments do not come out of the agencies’ budgets, and the Judgment Fund payments are not part of the appropriations process.

According to the fund’s website, it states “The Judgment Fund is a permanent, indefinite appropriation to pay judicially and administratively ordered monetary awards against the United States”. In short, the fund is used by agencies when they need taxpayer money to cover their legal expenses. In 1956, Congress established the fund to provide legal payments to various federal agencies.

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