An approach to the subject of government contracts requires some departure from the lawer's usual concept of a legal right. In this field, departures from generally accepted principles of contract law have developed in no small part from administrative practice, and the concept of a legal right cannot be thought of simply from the angle of enforceability in court. In transactions between private parties, the fact that the United States Supreme Court in Chase Securities Corporation v. Donaldson recently treated a legal right as being in essence merely dormant after the running 6f the statute of limitations against it would be meaningless if it had not declared also that a statute passed later could revive the right to sue. It happens that claims against the United States, however valid they might be under the law of private contracts, can never be the subject of a lawsuit except to the extent that Congress consents. Until the establishment of the United States Court of Claims in 1855, Congress had denied suit against the government generally on contract claims. Even now, where suit against the government is permitted, the judgment creditor's claim will not permit of a levy of execution for its enforcement. Having consented that the government be sued in any case or class of cases, Congress may choose not to pay the claim after it is reduced to judgment, or may let the judgment creditor wait until Congress has taken all the time it wants before it provides for payment. Nevertheless, usage justifies the claimant's saying in the field of government contracts that he has a right, one supported by legal rules on which the federal courts do act whenever litigation against the government is properly before them.
Leslie L. Anderson,
THE DISPUTES ARTICLE IN GOVERNMENT CONTRACTS,
Mich. L. Rev.
Available at: https://repository.law.umich.edu/mlr/vol44/iss2/3