The Justice Department said Wednesday it would appeal a court decision that would bar it from pursuing $280 billion from tobacco companies (search) in a civil racketeering lawsuit.

The government asked the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to hear the case after a three-judge panel earlier this month said the government could not seek the money.

The government outlined its request in a brief ordered by U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler, who is presiding over the racketeering trial. She had asked the Justice Department (search) to address the "scope and meaning" of the appeals court's ruling earlier this month.

The 2-1 decision from the appeals court dealt a major blow to the government's attempt to hold cigarette makers accountable for decades of alleged deceit about the dangers of smoking.

The panel decided that the 1970 civil racketeering statute under which the government filed its case required forward-looking remedies, which did not include "disgorgement," or the pursuit of $280 billion the government claims the industry earned through fraudulent activities.

Defendants will submit their response by next week.