In 2008 the United States District Court in Hawaii found the Navy to be in violation of the Randolph-Sheppard Act (RSA) for not requiring private companies that lease Navy land at Pearl Harbor Naval Base to comply wth the RSA. Under the Act, blind vendors have priority to operate vending facilities on federal property, including leased premises.

The Bowfin Museum operated at Pearl Harbor by the Pacific Fleet Memorial Association is one such lessee. Bowfin brought an action attempting to exclude its leased museum property from the 2008 ruling.

In a July 23, 2010 decision PACIFIC FLEET SUBMARINE v. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY, 2010 WL 2900992 (D.Hawai’i), the District Court found Bowfin has no standing to sue under the RSA, as the private association does not fall within the category of persons for which the statute confers standing to sue. This is consistent with earlier Court of Federal Claims precedent that disappointed bidders who are not blind vendors have no rights under the Randolph-Sheppard Act.

The next question was whether Bowfin has standing to sue under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. Section 702, which permits persons adversely affected by agency action within the meaning of a relevant statute to judicial review of the action. In this inquiry, a court looks to see whether the claimant’s interest is within “zone of interests” to be protected or regulated by the statute.

The U. S. Supreme Court’s guidance on the zone of interest test in Clarke v. Sec. Indus. Ass’n, 479 U.S. 388 (1987) is that the test should be construed generously. However, “if the plaintiff’s interests are so marginally related to or inconsistent with the purposes implicit in the statute”, then the Court should deny standing.

In its July decision, the Hawaii District Court found that Navy lessee Bowfin Museum’s interests are clearly inconsistent with the purpose of the RSA, which provides employment and business opportunities for the blind. As a result, Bowfin has no implied standing to sue under the APA. Bowfin’s action was dismissed.

Contact government contract lawyer Karen Hindson for your government contract law questions.