Chicago attorney James Bormes filed suit against the federal government, alleging the electronic receipt he received when paying his client's federal-court filing fee on Pay.gov included the last four digits of his credit card number and the card's expiration date.
Bormes contended revealing his secret credit card information was in willful violation of the Fair Credit Report Act.
The case pits two federal laws, the Fair Credit Reporting Act against the Little Tucker Act, which gives federal courts jurisdiction in smaller claims against the government.
A federal judge dismissed the suit, saying the FCRA did not waive the government's sovereign immunity from suit. But the U.S. Appeals Court for the Federal Circuit in Washington reversed, saying the Little Tucker Act gave the consumer consent from the government to sue because the right to recover damages was implicit in the credit law.
Writing for the entire court, Justice Antonin Scalia said the Little Tucker Act does not waive the federal government's immunity to FCRA damage suits.
The ruling throws out the lower court ruling and sends the case back down to the federal circuit for a hearing based on the high court opinion.