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U.S. v. STATE OF ILLINOIS

June 27, 2001

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
STATE OF ILLINOIS, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard Mills, United States District Judge

OPINION

A valid contract must be enforced.

One who breaks a valid contract must honor the result.

Such is the case here.

FACTS

In 1992 the United States Judicial Conference, through the Administrative Office of the United States Courts (the "Conference"), made a Criminal Justice Act grant of federal money to the State of Illinois for the Office of the State Appellate Defender (the "Appellate Defender"). The grant was to be used to provide legal services in federal death penalty habeas corpus cases.

A 1993 audit concluded that $35,787 of the grant funds had been used for obligations incurred outside the period of the grant or for purposes not allowed by the grant. As such, the Conference made a written demand to the Appellate Defender for $35,787 on December 1, 1993.

On March 20, 1995, the Appellate Defender wrote a letter to the Conference which stated "we are seeking funding to pay for [the] audit finding. [We] will keep you advised of the progress". The Appellate Defender again wrote to the Conference on August 27, 1999, stating that they have "asked the Illinois Legislature to provide funding to pay" the $35,787.

On January 31, 2001, the Conference — via the United States — filed suit against the State of Illinois for repayment of the Appellate Defender's debt. The Appellate Defender moves to dismiss the case, arguing that the United States did not file it before the applicable statute of limitations period expired. Further, the Appellate Defender argues that the United States is barred from pursuing the debt because the grant does not expressly allow the government to pursue a breach of contract claim in court.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court must accept well pleaded allegations of the complaint as true. See Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 104 S.Ct. 2229, 2233, 81 L.Ed.2d 59 (1984); Car Carriers, Inc. v. Ford Motor Co., 745 F.2d 1101, 1104 (7th Cir. 1984), cert. denied, 470 U.S. 1054, 105 S.Ct. 1758, 84 L.Ed.2d 821 (1985). Although a complaint is not required to contain a detailed outline of the claim's basis, it nevertheless must contain either direct or inferential allegations respecting all the material elements necessary to sustain a recovery under some viable legal theory. See Car Carriers, 745 F.2d at 1106. Dismissal should not be granted unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim that would entitle him to relief. See Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 101-02, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957). Furthermore, the court must accept as true all well-pled allegations and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiffs favor. See Perkins v. Silverstein, 939 F.2d 463, 466 (7th Cir. 1991).

ANALYSIS

A. Statute of Limitations

Title 28 U.S.C. § 2415(a) allows an agency of the United States to bring an action for money damages based on an express or implied contract provided it does within six years of the alleged breach. See 28 U.S.C. § 2415(a). However, this six-year statute of limitations is not absolute. Section 2415(a) provides that a cause of action re-accrues "in the event of later partial payment or written acknowledgment of debt". See id.; see also, United States v. Rollinson, 866 F.2d 1463, 1468 (D.C. Cir.), cert. denied 493 U.S. 818, 110 S.Ct. 71, 107 L.Ed.2d 37 (1989) ("where a debtor ...


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