The Law Office of Robert L. Risley

Office: 626-397-2745

Litigation in Federal & State Courts

Suing Uncle Sam

Our great democracy and system of government is based on duel sovereignty, with each sovereign occupying the same territory. Few countries in the world have such a system where each sovereign has its own laws, created by its own legislature, and administered by its own courts over the same citizenry.

Lawyers are licensed by the states where they live, work, and practice in both the state and federal justice systems. To say that our legal system is complex is to put it mildly. This is especially true when every kind of human endeavor and economic issue is brought to the doorsteps of the courts.

The rules for suing a fellow citizen or corporation are different from the rules for suing one of the sovereigns, such as the United States of America. Since everyone has wanted to sue their own government at one time or another, it’s worth a brief description of how that is accomplished.

To bring a suit against the federal government, the lawsuit must name as defendants the United States of America and one of its Secretaries. The Secretary must be a member of the President’s Cabinet and responsible for the agency whose conduct is in question or which has acted wrongfully. It must state the city and county where the event occurred, the facts supporting the claim, the law which has been broken and the reason the federal court has jurisdiction over the issue. A written request for a jury must be filed, along with a Civil Cover Sheet, Form JS-44. A Summons must be issued requiring the government to appear in court through its legal representative, the United States Attorney for the federal district where the event occurred. The Secretary of the appropriate department or agency must be sent a courtesy copy of the Complaint. Typically, these steps are accomplished by a private, professional process server. It is no longer necessary to employ a United States Federal Marshal to serve process for civil suits such as those contemplated here.

State governments can also be served with lawsuits alleging violations of statutes, negligence, or other tort claims under your state’s Uniform Tort Claims Act, which exists in most states. The procedures are analogous, but differ somewhat from the federal procedure, and vary from state to state.

If you want to sue one of the fifty-one great sovereigns (each of the fifty state governments plus the federal government) which occupy American soil, it is best to have experienced, competent legal representation.

Some of the typical claims filed in federal court involve the following:

Miscellaneous Statutes

  • anti-trust
  • banks and banking
  • commerce
  • deportation
  • Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO)
  • selective service
  • securities or commodities exchanges
  • agriculture
  • economic stabilization
  • environmental matters
  • energy allocation
  • freedom of information
  • constitutionality


  • insurance
  • marine
  • Miller Act
  • negotiable instruments
  • MediCare
  • student loans
  • veterans’ benefits
  • stockholder suits

Real Property

  • condemnation
  • foreclosure
  • ejectment
  • torts to land
  • tort product liability

Personal Injury

  • airplane product liability
  • assault, libel, and slander
  • federal employers’ liability
  • motor vehicle product liability
  • Civil Rights

    • voting
    • employment
    • housing/accommodation
    • welfare
    • other civil rights

    Personal Injury

    • medical malpractice
    • product liability
    • asbestos injury

    Personal Property

    • fraud
    • truth in lending
    • personal property damage
    • product liability damage


    • Fair Labor Standards Act
    • labor management relations
    • Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act
    • Railway Labor Act


    • appeal
    • withdrawal

    Property Rights

    • copyright
    • patent
    • trademark

    Social Security

    • HIA
    • Black Lung
    • SSID
    • Title XIV
    • RSI 405(g)

    Federal Tax Suits

    • taxes
    • IRS-third party
    • other statutes