The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has a new civil cover sheet for federal court actions that now includes a category for False Claims Act cases. These changes to the civil cover sheet aren’t really “new” as that word is usually defined — in fact the changes became effective in December of last year. But, in the world of courts and lawyers and jurisprudence where things move incrementally, one year is a flash in the pan.
Although the changes are not new, they are important for two reasons. First, this form is required for the use of the Clerk of Court for the purpose of initiating the civil docket sheet. The civil docket sheet, in turn, is used by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts to compile statistics, allocate resources, and generally track the business of the federal courts.
Second, each small step like this marks a bit of progress for the federal False Claims Act. It indicates that more lawyers — and administrators — are aware of the false claims act. Some readers might wonder how anyone could not be aware of the federal False Claims Act, given that it was 150 years old this year, but the simple fact is that these cases were not important enough — statistically speaking — to factor into court record-keeping until 2012.
And the fact that is important for purposes of statistical record-keeping also makes it just a little less likely that the enemies of fiscal responsibility would ever be able to gut or eliminate altogether the federal False Claims Act.
More important than the changes to the federal civil cover sheet, however, are the state-level false claims acts that are being passed with each new legislative session. In January 2014 we will renew our legislative watch on state false claims act laws, so stay tuned dear readers.