* Lawyer challenged printing of credit card data on receipt
* Court rejects claim that US waived sovereign immunity
By Jonathan Stempel
Nov 13 The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday
that consumers who receive receipts from the federal government
that contain confidential credit card information may not be
able to sue for damages.
The court unanimously said the government may not lose its
traditional immunity from lawsuits in cases seeking damages
under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which is designed to ensure
fair and accurate credit reporting and protect customer privacy.
James Bormes, a Chicago lawyer, had paid a $350 federal
court filing fee through the government's pay.gov system with
his American Express credit card. He said his receipts for that
transaction contained his card's expiration date, violating FCRA
provisions designed to protect against identity theft.
Bormes then sued the government, seeking class-action status
on behalf of people with receipts that displayed card expiration
dates or too many digits from credit and debit card numbers.
In the court's first signed decision since its current term
began, Justice Antonin Scalia rejected a November 2010 ruling by
a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., that a different
law known as the Little Tucker Act provided the government's
consent to be sued in FCRA cases.
"Since FCRA is a detailed remedial scheme, only its own text
can determine whether the damages liability Congress crafted
extends to the federal government," Scalia wrote.
"To hold otherwise - to permit plaintiffs to remedy the
absence of a waiver of sovereign immunity in specific, detailed
statutes by pleading general Tucker Act jurisdiction - would
transform the sovereign-immunity landscape," he added.
The Supreme Court sent the case to the 7th U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals in Chicago to decide whether the FCRA itself
provides a waiver of federal immunity from damages actions.
John Jacobs, a lawyer for Bormes, did not immediately
respond to requests for comment. The U.S. Department of Justice
did not immediately respond to similar requests.
During oral argument last month, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
suggested that if Bormes were to win, it could expose the
government to many costly claims. "The consequences are enormous
for the federal fisc," she had said, referring to the
government's financial condition.
The case is U.S. v. Bormes, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 11-192.