On March 22, the Senate Judiciary Committee continued hearings on the nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to be an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Throughout the hearing, senators posed questions to Judge Jackson on a wide variety of topics. During his time to ask questions, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) posed two questions concerning the False Claims Act and whistleblowers.
Before posing questions, Senator Grassley outlined the success of the False Claims Act, describing it as “one of the best tools we have to fight against government fraud and recover taxpayer money.” He also stated that he has “worked for decades to protect whistleblowers who shine a light on fraud, waste and abuse in the government.”
Grassley then posed specific questions about arguments concerning the lawfulness of qui tam whistleblower suits under the False Claims Act. According to Grassley, government officials have previously suggested that qui tam suits are unlawful because they violate the Appointments Clause as well as the President’s Constitutional powers. Grassley asked Judge Jackson if she believed qui tam suits were unlawful on these grounds.
Judge Jackson did not specifically comment on the legal matters because they are issues that may be litigated. She did note, however, that should cases on the matter arise before her, she would “look, consistent with [her] methodology, at any arguments that are raised about the Constitutionality of lawfulness of those actions.”
Prior to the hearing, whistleblower advocates demanded that questions be posed to Judge Jackson on whistleblower issues. Grassley’s questions were therefore praised by advocates.
“Senator Grassley’s questioning of Judge Jackson concerning whistleblowing is a great public service,” said whistleblower attorney Stephen M. Kohn of Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto. “Judges often are hostile to whistleblowers, and many do not appreciate their contributions or the hardships they face. Putting whistleblower rights front and center in questioning nominees is a step forward ensuring that judges are not hostile to whistleblowers.”
Senator Grassley concluded his questions on the matter by highlighting the importance of whistleblowers in enforcing the False Claims Act. “Remember that in about all of these suits that involve the courts and making interpretations of the False Claims Act, most of them are brought by whistleblowers,” Grassley stated. “Remember, the government would not even know about these fraudulent use of taxpayers without whistleblowers coming forth. And they ought to be given some credit for wanting the government to do what the laws say it ought to do and spend the money the way Congress implies the money be spent.”