Robinson v. U.S. Dep’t of Education (P)

The district court properly found that it lacked jurisdiction over the plaintiff-appellant’s lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Education for violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. It is settled law that a waiver of sovereign immunity must be unambiguous and unequivocal, and here Congress has enacted no such waiver.

This case centers on the meaning of the word “person” in 15 U.S.C. § 1681n and § 1681o, specifically whether the federal government is a “person” for purposes of FCRA’s general civil liability provisions. When Congress means to waive sovereign immunity in a provision otherwise applying to persons, it says so explicitly. The United States is not ordinarily considered to be a person. On this ordinary understanding, the Act’s enforcement provisions wouldn’t apply to the federal government. In the universe of possible waivers, this would be a very casual one, and the stark contrasts between the Act’s civil liability provisions and recognized waivers serve as strong evidence that Congress did not waive sovereign immunity under FCRA.


Robinson v. U.S. Dep’t of Education (P), No. 18-1822, Mar. 6, 2019. 4th Cir. (Wilkinson) from DMD at Greenbelt (Hazel).

Categories: 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Opinions, Published

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