The Latest in Government Overreach (Wartime Suspension of Limitations Act Edition)

Your federal government--and mine--has found a new way to prevent the statute of limitations from running regarding claims that the government has been defrauded. It now employs the Wartime Suspension of Limitations Act to claim that since the United States is at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the government can take longer to get around to prosecuting cases in which fraud against the government has been alleged. As Walter Olson notes, alleged misconduct need not have anything whatsoever to do with any war, and although the WSLA is part of the federal criminal code, it carries over to civil claims as well, where the standard of proof is lower than it is for criminal cases. Quoth Olson:

Reliance on WLSA [sic] is surging. Last December, the federal government filed a slew of mortgage-meltdown claims against Wells Fargo that would otherwise have been time-barred, citing the Afghan war as reason to ignore the statute of limitations. Twelve times the government invoked WSLA from 2009 to 2012, as many times as it has relied on the statute in the preceding 47 years.

Nervous business lawyers are wondering who is next and when, if at all, they can safely advise clients that a potential dispute is too old to worry about. If truth is the first casualty of war, perhaps the fairness of dispute resolution is the next.

It should go without saying that Congress ought to repeal the WSLA. It should also go without saying that it won't bother to.