Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Fanning v. West

November 12, 1998

FANNING, PHILLIPS AND MOLNAR, APPELLANT,
v.
TOGO D. WEST, JR., SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS, APPELLEE.



Before Rich, Bryson, and Gajarsa, Circuit Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gajarsa, Circuit Judge.

Appealed from: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Board of Contract Appeals United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

DECISION

Fanning, Phillips & Molnar ("FP&M") seeks review of two decisions of the Department of Veterans Affairs Board of Contract Appeals (the "Board"), which partially denied FP&M's applications for fees pursuant to the Equal Access to Justice Act, 5 U.S.C. § 504 (the "EAJA"). See Fanning, Phillips & Molnar, VABCA No. 3856E, 97-2 BCA ¶ 29,008 (June 2, 1997) and Fanning, Phillips & Molnar, VABCA No. 3964E, 1996 WL 479123 (Aug. 22, 1996). Because we do not have jurisdiction over the appeal from VABCA No. 3964, we dismiss this appeal. Because FP&M is not entitled to the fees it requests on appeal with regard to VABCA No. 3856, we affirm the decision of the Board with respect to this appeal.

BACKGROUND

FP&M is an engineering partnership that contracted with the Department of Veterans Affairs to study and design an emergency water reservoir and to conduct a cool storage feasibility study. Various disputes arose during the course of this contract. FP&M filed one claim for $49,741.31, which was docketed as VABCA No. 3856. FP&M also filed another claim for $11,351.90, which was docketed as VABCA No. 3964. The Board granted the 3964 claim, but denied the 3856 claim. After considering FP&M's request for reconsideration, however, the Board granted a portion of the 3856 claim.

Following the Board's decisions on the merits, FP&M filed two applications for fees and expenses pursuant to the EAJA. In these two EAJA applications, FP&M sought the following costs: (1) wages paid for all hours worked on the claims by several employees of the partnership (including one employee who testified as an expert witness); (2) salary, plus overhead and profit, for the hours expended by a partner of FP&M (Gary Molnar) for work on the claims; (3) salary, plus overhead and profit, for an employee who performed clerical and secretarial services for Mr. Molnar; (4) fees paid to FP&M's outside counsel for legal services; and (5) expenses associated with travel, long distance calls, and overnight delivery. Mr. Molnar represented the partnership before the Board. *fn1 However, neither the employees who worked on the litigation nor Mr. Molnar were lawyers.

The Board found that FP&M was the prevailing party, that it qualified for EAJA fees, and that the government's position was not substantially justified with respect to either claim. However, the Board granted only part of the requested EAJA fees. With respect to both EAJA applications, the Board held that the salaries paid to FP&M employees and principals are not reimbursable under EAJA. The Board held that only fees paid to outside consultants or independent expert witnesses qualify for reimbursement. The Board further stated that it could not award recovery for any of the salaries of an applicant's officers or employees, regardless of their type of involvement in the litigation underlying the EAJA application.

With respect to the 3964 claim, the Board rejected the outside attorney fee because FP&M refused to provide detailed documentation of the bill. This bill only stated the following: "For all consultation services rendered through 2/1/94 including legal research and miscellaneous correspondence and communications." There was no indication of the starting date for the services or the hourly rate for the services provided. In its Answer before the Board, the government took issue with the lack of specificity in the bill. FP&M did not provide additional documentation, but rather responded that further itemization would "not be cost productive and hence, not in the best interests of these judicial proceedings." With respect to both of the claims, the Board granted miscellaneous costs such as express delivery, long distance calls, and travel expenses. The Board also granted the fees of an outside attorney in the 3856 claim because this bill had been itemized.

FP&M's first application for fees, in VABCA No. 3964, was denied by the Board on August 22, 1996. FP&M filed a notice of appeal on November 12, 1996, or 82 days after the date the Board denied the EAJA application. That appeal was docketed in this court as No. 97-1097. FP&M's second application for fees, in VABCA No. 3856, was denied by the Board on June 2, 1997. FP&M filed a notice of appeal from that denial on June 13, 1997, or 11 days after the Board denied that EAJA application. That appeal was docketed in this court as No. 97-1413. This court consolidated the two appeals.

FP&M argues that the Board erred in concluding that the EAJA did not authorize fees for the non-attorney services of a party's employees and its principals. In addition, FP&M argues that the Board erred in denying FP&M's outside attorney fees in the 3964 claim and that the Board should give FP&M the opportunity to submit a more detailed bill.

Discussion

Before reaching the merits of these appeals, we must consider a threshold jurisdictional issue. "Federal courts are not courts of general jurisdiction; they have only the power that is authorized by Article III of the Constitution and the statutes enacted by Congress pursuant thereto." Bender v. Williamsport Area School District, 475 U.S. 534, 540 (1986). We therefore have a special obligation to satisfy ourselves of our own jurisdiction. See id. "A party, or the court sua sponte, may address a challenge to subject matter jurisdiction at any time, even on appeal." Booth v. United States, 990 F.2d 617, 620 (Fed. Cir. 1993). In this case, FP&M filed its appeal for the 3964 claim 82 days after the date the Board denied the EAJA application. Under 5 U.S.C § 504(c)(2), the applicable period for filing such an appeal is 30 days. We therefore do not have jurisdiction to hear this appeal because it was untimely filed. As we have clarified previously,

"In sum, 5 U.S.C. § 504(c)(2) alone, and not 41 U.S.C. § 607(g)(1)(A), provides the applicable period for appeal from a board of contract appeals decision on an application for fees and expenses. . . . Because [the petitioner] filed its petition for review of the board's decision denying its fee application more than thirty days after issuance of the decision, we have no jurisdiction to review it." Adam Sommerrock Holzbau, GmbH v. United States, 866 F.2d 427, 430 (Fed. Cir. 1989). See also J-I-J Constr. Co., Inc. v. United States, 829 F.2d 26 (Fed. Cir. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.