Bartlett v. USDA, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 24661 (N.D. Iowa 2012)

(plaintiffs are thirty-eight Iowa citizens and entities seeking payment under the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payment Program (SURE); plaintiffs appealed initial SURE payments to their respective FSA County offices alleging defendants used wrong “Price Election figures” and improperly calculated program guarantees; during first county hearing, Iowa State FSA director informed plaintiffs that the issue was not appealable because counties did not have authority to change the figures; plaintiffs, via legal counsel, made agreement with FSA Director to bypass “fruitless” and “futile” administrative appeal process and advance directly to federal court, so FSA Director provided notation on appeal letters that administrative appeal process had been exhausted; plaintiffs filed district court action to appeal “Price Election figures”; defendants filed motion to dismiss based on plaintiffs’ failure to exhaust administrative remedies; plaintiffs filed motion to gather evidence for resistance to motion to dismiss arguing defendants should be equitably estopped from raising an exhaustion defense due to representations made by Iowa State FSA director; court held case law establishes equitable estoppel is generally not available in suits against government; court denied motion because plaintiffs’ reliance on agreement with government employee to avoid law was not reasonable and plaintiffs did not take steps to verify legitimacy of agreement before relying on FSA director’s statements).

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