Dobyns v. United States, No. 15-5020 (Fed. Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
In 2003, Dobyns, then an ATF agent engaged in undercover work, infiltrated the Hells Angels and assisted in the indictment of 36 people for racketeering and murder. The disclosure of his identity during the prosecutions led to threats against Dobyns and his family. ATF’s alleged failure to appropriately respond to the threats and to adequately conceal Dobyns’ identity during an emergency relocation, led Dobyns to seek compensation. In 2007, ATF agreed to pay Dobyns a lump-sum. ATF withdrew Dobyns’ and his family’s fictitious identities in 2008 despite a 2007 threat assessment. A 2008, arson attack substantially damaged Dobyns’ home, but his family escaped without injury. ATF pursued Dobyns as a suspect. In 2013, ATF’s Internal Affairs Division concluded that there was no valid reason for the withdrawal of the fictitious identifies; that risks to the family had been ignored; and that the response to the arson had been mismanaged. Dobyns sued in 2008, alleging breach of the agreement. While the suit was pending, Dobyns’ book was released; Dobyns made frequent media appearances. In 2013, the Claims Court held that there was no breach of any express provision of the agreement but that there was a breach of the implied duty of good faith and fair dealing and that Dobyns was entitled to emotional distress damages of $173,000. Dobyns alleged misconduct by the Justice Department during the litigation; the court determined that none of the alleged misconduct warranted Rule 60 relief because, even if they occurred, there was no showing that these acts could have affected Dobyns’ case. The Federal Circuit reversed the judgment as to the breach of the implied duties and affirmed the Rule 60 decision.