Franconia Associates v. United States, 536 U.S. 129, 3 (2002)

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Cite as: 536 U. S. 129 (2002)


date indicated for performance, breach would occur when a borrower attempted to prepay, for only then would the Government's responsive performance become due. Pp. 141-144.

(c) The first of the Government's arguments to the contrary is unpersuasive. The Government contends that 2501's "first accrues" qualification is meant to ensure that suits against the United States are filed on the earliest possible date, thereby providing the Government with reasonably prompt notice of the fiscal implications of past enactments. However, 2501's text is unexceptional: A number of contemporaneous state statutes of limitations applicable to suits between private parties also tie the commencement of the limitations period to the date a claim "first accrues." Equally telling, in its many years of applying and interpreting 2501, the Court of Federal Claims has never attributed to the words "first accrues" the meaning the Government now proposes. Instead, in other settings, that court has adopted the repudiation doctrine in its traditional form when evaluating the timeliness of suits governed by 2501. Two practical considerations reinforce the Court's conclusion. First, reading 2501 as the Government proposes would seriously distort the repudiation doctrine in Tucker Act suits because a party aggrieved by the Government's renunciation of a contractual obligation anticipating future performance would be compelled by the looming limitations bar to forgo the usual option of awaiting the time performance is due before filing suit for breach. Second, putting prospective plaintiffs to the choice of either bringing suit soon after the Govern-ment's repudiation or forever relinquishing their claims would surely proliferate litigation, forcing the Government to defend against highly speculative damages claims in a profusion of suits, most of which would never have been brought under a less novel interpretation of 2501. Pp. 144-147.

(d) The Court also rejects the premise, and therefore the conclusion, of the Government's second argument against application of the repudiation doctrine. The Government contends that a congressional enactment like ELIHPA that precludes the Government from honoring a contractual obligation anticipating future performance always constitutes a present breach because the agency or official responsible for administering the contract is not free to change its mind and render the requisite performance without violating binding federal law. However, just as Congress may announce the Government's intent to dishonor an obligation to perform in the future through a duly enacted law, so may it retract that renouncement prior to the time for performance, thereby enabling the agency or contracting official to perform as promised. Indeed, Congress changed its mind in just this manner before it enacted ELIHPA. In 1979 amendments to the National Housing Act, Congress


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