Suing Congress for Dereliction of Duty in Small Claims Court
As the political cycle moves forward, there’s sometimes talk about suing Congress for dereliction of duty. This has come from both sides of the aisle; the idea that if Congress doesn’t do their job, an ordinary person can potentially sue them. The concept assumes that as the people “hired” Congress in the first place, they should be accountable even outside of potentially being removed from office at the next election.
So, can you sue Congress for dereliction of duty? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Members of Congress, and by extension Congress as a whole, have congressional immunity. This has commonly been taken to mean that they can’t be sued for anything they do in the course of business (A Congressman can be sued for things that are not related to what he is doing in his job). Some people have tried anyway, but generally, they don’t get that far. The only exceptions are that members of Congress can be arrested for treason, breach of the peace, or a felony.
This article will go over:
- The reasons why people sue Congress for dereliction of duty
- If you can file a small claims suit by yourself
- Why we don’t recommend handling a lawsuit alone
- A better option using DoNotPay
Why People Try to Sue Congress for Dereliction of Duty
We were unable to find any incident of somebody actually attempting to sue Congress for dereliction of duty, as opposed to merely threatening to do so. At one point, there was a Change.org petition to do so, which elicited a grand total of 76 signatures.
We were able to find one serious argument for what might count as dereliction of duty as well as a way to sue individual government agencies for negligence.
|Voting for Laws they Know to be Unconstitutional||A 2007 paper by Anant Raut and J. Benjamin Schrader, at Vanderbilt University, suggested that members of Congress who vote for a law after saying it is constitution have committed an act of dereliction of duty. The writer argues that the Congressional oath places an obligation on members not to do so and that the modern Congress doesn’t spend enough time discussing the constitutionality of proposals. However, it in no way implies that anyone should sue Congress over it, merely suggesting that disciplinary action should be taken internally.
All other arguments in favor turned out to be extremely partisan, with each side accusing the other of “dereliction of duty” over decisions they simply did not like. This is perhaps the strongest case for why we should not be able to sue Congress, as they would likely end up too busy defending themselves from suits to do their jobs.
|Suing the Government for Negligence||It is possible to bring a claim against the U.S. government if a government agency has been negligent. This is an established loophole in the typical immunity and is a right granted by the Federal Tort Claims Act. It allows lawsuits against federal employees, acting within the scope of their employment.
It has not been, to our knowledge, tested whether this could apply to a member of Congress. Usually, these claims are for negligent conduct of federal employees. For example, let’s say you had a slip and fall on Federal property, you might be able to sue the government for negligence. You have to go through a process to try and get out-of-court compensation first, however.
In general, though, you are suing a federal agency in this case, not Congress itself.
Can You File A Lawsuit Against Congress by Yourself?
Again, we don’t recommend trying to sue Congress, except possibly in the very limited circumstance above. We also don’t recommend suing anyone by yourself.
Typically, you can only handle cases without a lawyer in small claims court, which limits judgment to an amount that varies from $5,000 to $10,000, depending on your state. However, very few people have the knowledge to do this successfully. You will need to write a demand letter, prepare the various forms, and know exactly what to say.
Dangers/Issues With Filing a Lawsuit By Yourself
Bluntly, most people who try to file a lawsuit by themselves lose. In this particular case, we can see a situation where somebody may think they can file a suit but, in fact, they can’t. This can result in a lot of wasted time, energy, and money trying to file a suit which, by definition will go nowhere.
In other situations, people have lost cases because they weren’t familiar with the system. They may miss the statute of limitation, they may not respond to a request from the court in time, etc.
While small claims suits generally aren’t enough to warrant a lawyer, doing it entirely on your own is not a great idea either. This is where DoNotPay comes in.
How Suing With DoNotPay Works
Filing a suit with DoNotPay is the perfect solution. We offer the first robot lawyer in the world, which means you don’t have to pay expensive legal fees, but get that bit of help you need to successfully navigate small claims court. Take the following steps:
- Log in to DoNotPay.
- Select the “Sue Now” product.
- Enter the dollar amount you are owed.
- Select whether you want court filing forms or a demand letter.
- Describe the reason for the lawsuit and attach photos and other evidence to support your case.
Easy! DoNotPay will create the demand letter or court filing forms and will mail a copy of the demand letter straight to the person you are suing.
How Else Can DoNotPay Help?
DoNotPay is known for helping people sue any company in small claims court without an attorney. Check out the following companies that DoNotPay has helped sue:
Check out DoNotPay’s other services:
- Provide college fee waivers
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