United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Huntington Division
UNITED STATES, ex rel. WEALTHY EANES, Plaintiff,
DAN O'HANLAN, JOHN “JACK” LAISHLEY, Defendants.
PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
A. Eifert United States Magistrate Judge
November 4, 2016, Relator Wealthy Eanes filed a pro
se Complaint under the qui tam provision of the
False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. § 3730(b)(1). (ECF No. 2).
Pending before the Court is Relator's Motion to Compel,
(ECF No. 4), the Complaint, and the United States' Motion
to Dismiss, (ECF No. 10). This matter is assigned to the
Honorable Robert C. Chambers, United States District Judge,
and by Standing Order has been referred to the undersigned
United States Magistrate Judge for the submission of proposed
findings of fact and recommendations for disposition pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). On March 3, 2017, the
undersigned conducted a hearing on the Complaint and the
Motion to Dismiss pursuant to 31 U.S.C. § 3730(c)(2)(A),
at which the United States was present, by counsel, and
Relator was present, in person, via audioconference. Having
thoroughly considered the record, as well as the statements
made by Relator and the United States at the hearing, the
undersigned respectfully recommends that Relator's Motion
to Compel be DENIED, the United States' Motion to Dismiss
be GRANTED, and this matter be DISMISSED, with prejudice,
from the docket of the Court.
Factual and Procedural Background
is a state prisoner incarcerated at Salem Correctional Center
in Industrial, West Virginia. On November 4, 2016, Relator
filed the instant pro se Complaint under the qui
tam provision of the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C.
§ 3730(b)(1), and a Motion to Compel. (ECF Nos. 2 and
4). Relator asserts that Defendants, a circuit court judge
and court-appointed attorney, committed various federal
crimes by effecting a scheme to “defraud the Government
by submitting false fabricated overbilling for services to a
federally subsidized program, that being the W.Va. Public
Defender Services.” (ECF No. 2 at 4). He contends that
attorney, Jack Laishley, created fraudulent bills for legal
services that he never performed and submitted them to
circuit court judge, Dan O'Hanlon, who approved them for
payment by the WVPDS, knowing that they were false.
(Id.). He contends that Judge O'Hanlon appointed
Defendant Laishley to ‘‘High Profile” cases
“in order to be eligible to receive additional and
approved billings.” (Id.).
February 6, 2017, the United States filed a Motion to Dismiss
and Memorandum in Support. (ECF Nos. 10, 11). The Government
maintains that the Complaint should be dismissed, because it
fails to state a cognizable claim under the FCA. In addition,
the Government indicates that it does not wish to intervene
in the action, and Fourth Circuit precedent does not permit a
relator to prosecute a qui tam action without legal
undersigned held a hearing on the Motion to Dismiss on March
3, 2017. During the hearing, Assistant United States Attorney
Jennifer Mankins presented the Government's Motion, and
Relator had the opportunity to respond and make statements.
Relator acknowledged that he had no factual basis to support
his assertion that the WVPDS received federal funding, nor
could he provide any other factual ground upon which to state
a cognizable claim under the FCA. Relator further confirmed
that he had no legal representation on the Complaint.
is a federal law that imposes civil liability on individuals
who knowingly present or conspire to present a fraudulent
claim for payment to an officer, employee, or agent of the
United States. 31 U.S.C. § 3729. The Act includes a
qui tam provision, which authorizes private citizen
whistleblowers, referred to as “relators, ” to
file civil actions for FCA violations on behalf of the
Government. 31 U.S.C. § 3730(b)(1). The FCA is clear
that the Government may “dismiss the action
notwithstanding the objections of the person initiating the
action if the person has been notified by the Government of
the filing of the motion and the court has provided the
person with an opportunity for a hearing on the
motion.” Id. at § 3730(c)(2)(A).
case, the Government elected to dismiss Relator's
Complaint. As noted by the United States, the facts
asserted in the Complaint do not fall within the auspices of
the FCA. (ECF No. 11). Relator claims that Defendants
Laishley and O'Hanlon submitted and approved,
respectively, false legal bills to the WVPDS. However,
contrary to Relator's assertion, the WVPDS is not a
“federally subsidized program.” As identified in
the United States' brief, the West Virginia State Budget
Office is required to present annual reports itemizing all
federal funds received by the state during the preceding and
current fiscal years, as well as those scheduled or
anticipated to be received during the ensuing fiscal year.
W.Va. Code § 11B-2-23(c). The annual reports for fiscal
years 2008 through 2017 do not reveal any federal funding
received by the WVPDS. Relator does not present, nor does the
undersigned find, any evidence that the WVPDS receives any
Defendants in this action, a private attorney and state
circuit court judge, are unquestionably not officers,
employees, or agents of the federal government. In short, the
Complaint does not state an actionable claim under the FCA,
because Defendants did not submit or conspire to submit a
claim for money to “an officer, employee, or agent of
the United States, ” no portion of the money involved
was funded by the United States government, nor will any
portion of the money involved be reimbursed by the United
States government. See 31 U.S.C. § 3730(b)(1)
(qui tam provision allows Relator to bring action
for violations of § 3729 of the Act); Id. at
§ 3729 (defining what acts violate the FCA).
even if the facts asserted in the Complaint were cognizable
under the FCA, “[a] lay person may not bring a qui
tam action under the False Claims Act.” U.S.
ex rel. Brooks v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 237 Fed.Appx.
802, 803 (4th Cir. 2007). In a qui tam action,
“the United States is the real party in interest, and
the need for adequate legal representation on behalf of the
United States counsels against permitting pro se
suits.” Id. Here, the United States does not
wish to intervene in or prosecute the action, and Relator has
no legal representation.
for all of the above-stated reasons, the undersigned FINDS
that this action should be dismissed with prejudice.
Proposal and Recommendations
reasons set forth above, the undersigned respectfully
PROPOSES that the presiding district judge accept and adopt
the findings proposed herein and RECOMMENDS that
Relator's Motion to Compel, (ECF No. 4), be DENIED; the
United States of America's Motion to Dismiss, (ECF No.
10), be GRANTED; and ...