According to this Wall Street Journal report, Huawei is suing the "U.S.".

What does this really mean?

Are they suing the entire U.S. government, a branch of the U.S. government, the people of the U.S., or something else?

And in which type of court will this lawsuit be heard?

3 Answers 3


According to this Wall Street Journal report, Huawei is suing the "U.S.".

What does this really mean?

Are they suing the entire U.S. government, a branch of the U.S. government, the people of the U.S., or something else?

This means that he is either (1) suing the United States government as an entity, or (2) a federal government official, in either (a) an official capacity action seeking injunctive or habeas corpus relief, or (b) in a personal capacity in a Bivens action (suing the official for violating his constitutional rights).

It is not possible to sue "the people of the U.S."

It is also not possible to sue a branch of the U.S. government unless it is an independent agency with a federal corporate charter that gives it the right to sue and be sued in its own name (e.g. the U.S. Post Office or AMTRAK or the FDIC). You cannot, for example, properly sue "the Commerce Department" or the "IRS", although a generous judge might treat such a suit as a suit against the United States of America.

The jurisdictional statute (5 U.S.C. § 702) cited in the Complaint states (emphasis added):

A person suffering legal wrong because of agency action, or adversely affected or aggrieved by agency action within the meaning of a relevant statute, is entitled to judicial review thereof. **An action in a court of the United States seeking relief other than money damages and stating a claim that an agency or an officer or employee thereof acted or failed to act in an official capacity or under color of legal authority shall not be dismissed nor relief therein be denied on the ground that it is against the United States or that the United States is an indispensable party. The United States may be named as a defendant in any such action, and a judgment or decree may be entered against the United States: Provided, That any mandatory or injunctive decree shall specify the Federal officer or officers (by name or by title), and their successors in office, personally responsible for compliance. Nothing herein (1) affects other limitations on judicial review or the power or duty of the court to dismiss any action or deny relief on any other appropriate legal or equitable ground; or (2) confers authority to grant relief if any other statute that grants consent to suit expressly or impliedly forbids the relief which is sought.

The pleading linked by @Putvi, in that answer, indicates that the suit is against the United States of American and against several U.S. government officials in their official capacity seeking declaratory relief and injunctive relief in a U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas (i.e. (1) and (2)(a) above, but not (2)(b)).

And in which type of court will this lawsuit be heard?

A suit against the U.S. as an entity seeking money damages is brought in the U.S. Court of Claims. But, usually, such actions are either for contract disputes, or plain vanilla negligence torts where there is a waiver of sovereign immunity (e.g. a routine car accident against a Department of Commerce official driving carelessly from one work site to the next in an official vehicle an causing an accident).

In this case, however, it is a suit brought in a U.S. District Court which has jurisdiction over all forms of suits against federal government officials and separately incorporated entities whether seeking money damages or injunctive relief, and suits against the United States as an entity that do not seek money damages. (FWIW, If I recall correctly, U.S. District Courts also have jurisdiction over inverse condemnation actions and eminent domain actions even though they are claims for money damages against the United States.)

The nominal defendant in a habeas corpus action is the prison warden or comparable jail official (often a sheriff).

Even if there were a mix of federal and non-federal claims, the U.S. District Court would have jurisdiction over the non-federal claims via both supplementary jurisdiction and diversity jurisdiction.

  • Interesting - in a suit against an Australian government you sue the responsible minister (as the personification of the department)
    – Dale M
    Apr 15, 2019 at 21:05
  • This suit sued five people who would be the equivalent of responsible ministers in Australia plus the United States itself. This is pretty typical and correct federal practice on this score.
    – ohwilleke
    Apr 15, 2019 at 21:16

The complaint is here for all to see; the defendants are The United States of America, Emily Webster Murphy, Administrator of the General Services Administration, Alexander Acosta, Secretary of Labor, Alex Azar II, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education, Sonny Perdue, Secretary of Agriculture, Robert Wilkie, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and David L. Bernhardt, Acting Secretary of the § Interior, in their official capacities. Starting on page 7 it describes the defendants and why a particular defendant is names. In the case of the US,

The United States of America is a defendant based on the actions of the United States Congress in enacting the NDAA, and because it is a proper defendant under 5 U.S.C. § 702, which says that the US may be named as a defendant in a suit over an agency action.

This will be heard in a federal district court.


It means they are suing some part of the executive branch of the federal government and it would go to federal court.

Who is named in the suit, would depend on what action you are suing against, if the president did something you would be directing it at him, if the state dept. does something wrong you would direct it at the appropriate person there, etc.

Huawei choose to name the Trump admin's cabinet officials, because the cabinet members run each federal agency and would therefore be in charge of enforcing the law.

Huawei wants the court to stop the heads of each federal agency from refusing to buy its products.

In the specific case of Huawei, the National Defense Authorization Act bans the use of some of their products by the federal government, because the government thinks Huawei may try to spy on us.

Huawei filed in Texas, because their U.S. offices are there. You can read the papers they filed here https://docs.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/texas/txedce/4:2019cv00159/188186/1.

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