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Context of 'June 16, 1986: Senator Asks Justice Department Oversight Unit about Inslaw Allegations'

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C. Madison “Brick” Brewer gets the job of supervising a contract with Inslaw for the installation of the PROMIS database and search application (see March 1982). [US Congress, 9/10/1992; Wired News, 3/1993] According to a report by the House Judiciary Committee, Brewer gets the job from William P. Tyson of the Justice Department’s Executive Office for US Attorneys (EOUSA). [US Congress, 9/10/1992] However, according to Wired magazine, Brewer is appointed by EOUSA Director Laurence McWhorter, who had told a previous candidate for the position that he was “out to get Inslaw” (see Spring 1981). [Wired News, 3/1993] Brewer had originally been hired by the EOUSA in January. [US Congress, 9/10/1992] He once worked for Inslaw, but was allowed to resign when its founder William Hamilton found his performance inadequate (see 1976). [Wired News, 3/1993] Brewer will soon demonstrate his hostility to Inslaw, and the company will ask that he be replaced (see April 14, 1982, April 19, 1982, and Mid-April 1982).
Importance of Job - As the project manager, Brewer is involved in all major contract and technical decisions, including forming the department’s position on Inslaw’s claim that it should be paid for privately-funded enhancements it makes to PROMIS. Brewer also reports on progress on the contract to the department’s PROMIS Oversight Committee (see August 13, 1981 or Before).
Comment by Assistant Attorney General - Assistant Attorney General Lowell Jensen will later comment: “I would think that the better path of wisdom is not to do that [i.e. hire an allegedly fired employee to direct the contract of his former employer] if that’s possible to do. I think that it’s better to have these kinds of issues undertaken by people who don’t have questions raised about them one way or the other whether they are biased in favor of or against the people they deal with.” However, this thinking apparently does not impact the department’s decision to hire Brewer.
House Judiciary Committee Investigation - In the light of these circumstances, the House Judiciary Committee will call the appointment a “curious choice,” partly because Brewer tells it: “I was not a computer person. We talked about my role viewed as being liaison, the person who would make things happen, a coordinator. It was not contemplated that I would, by osmosis or otherwise, learn computer science.” After interviewing Justice Department staff, the committee will find that it is “unable to determine how Mr. Brewer came to be considered for the position.” The committee will also point out: “The potential conflict of interest was an unsatisfactory situation irrespective of his admittedly negative feelings about his forced resignation from the company. Had Mr. Brewer taken actions which could have been construed to unduly favor Inslaw throughout the life of the contract, similar questions of potential conflict could just as easily have arisen either from within the department or from outside competitors of the company.”
Findings of Government Accountability Office and Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations - The Government Accountability Office and Congress’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI) will find that Brewer’s appointment as project manager creates an appearance of a conflict of interest that should have been avoided by the department. The PSI report will say, “The staff finds that the department exercised poor judgment in ignoring the potential for a conflict of interest in its hiring of the PROMIS project director [Brewer], and then, after receiving allegations of bias on his part, in failing to follow standard procedures to investigate them in a timely manner.”
Courts' Opinions - During the legal proceedings that stem from a dispute between Inslaw and the department, two courts will comment on the issue. George Bason, of the Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia, will say, “On the basis of the evidence taken as a whole, this court is convinced beyond any doubt that Brewer was consumed by hatred for and an intense desire for revenge against Mr. Hamilton and Inslaw, and acted throughout this matter in a thoroughly biased and unfairly prejudicial manner toward Inslaw.” William Bryant, of the District Court for the District of Columbia, will add, “The nature and circumstances of his separation from that employment are somewhat in dispute, but it is clear that Brewer was not happy in his job when he left it after being urged to do so by Hamilton.”
Brewer's Motivation - Inslaw attorney Harvey Sherzer will comment in court on one of the motivations apparently driving Brewer: “[H]e seemed to think there was something wrong with a contractor benefiting from a government contract.… The gist of what he seemed to be saying was that by performing this contract Inslaw and Mr. Hamilton, specifically, was making an effort to expand the company. And there seemed to be a negative inference toward Inslaw’s ability to use the base created by this contract to expand.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]
Office of Professional Responsibility Conclusion - On the contrary, the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility will examine the matter and rule there is no conflict of interest. Brewer will later tell a federal court that everything he does regarding Inslaw is approved by Jensen. Jensen had previously supervised a product known as DALITE, which lost a major contract to Inslaw in the 1970s. [Wired News, 3/1993]

Entity Tags: Lowell Jensen, William Bryant, Office of Professional Responsibility, Laurence McWhorter, Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, US District Court for the District of Columbia, House Judiciary Committee, Harvey Sherzer, Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia, C. Madison “Brick” Brewer, Inslaw, Inc., Executive Office for US Attorneys (DOJ), George Bason, Government Accountability Office, Frank Mallgrave, William P. Tyson

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

One month after the Justice Department and Inslaw sign a contract on the installation of PROMIS software (see March 1982), a departmental official raises the possibility of terminating the contract. At a meeting of the PROMIS Project Team, project manager C. Madison Brewer, the Justice Department’s contracting officer Peter Videnieks, and Jack Rugh, the acting assistant director for the Office of Management Information Systems Support, discuss terminating the contract with Inslaw for convenience of the government, according to notes taken at the meeting. “Discussed Inslaw’s ‘PROMIS II’ memo, termination for convenience discussed,” read Videnieks’ notes. When the contract becomes the subject of a series of legal actions, the three men begin to suffer from what the House Judiciary Committee will call “severe memory loss” over what happened at the meeting. In a sworn statement, Brewer will say he does not recall the details of the meeting, but if this recommendation were made, it was made “in jest.” However, he will admit to being upset with Inslaw’s handling of the contract and its demand for payment for enhancements it had made privately to the application (see April 2, 1982). Bankruptcy Court Judge George Bason will comment: “All of the [Justice Department] witnesses who attended the April 14, 1982 meeting professed a total lack of memory about it. They testified they had no recollection of any such meeting. This court disbelieves that testimony. None of them could offer any credible explanation, or indeed any explanation, of the meaning of Videnieks’ handwritten notes other than what this court finds to be their meaning.… These notes constitute a ‘smoking gun’ that clearly evidences Brewer’s intense bias against Inslaw, his single-minded intent to drive INSLAW out of business, and Rugh’s and Videnieks’ complicity.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, Peter Videnieks, Jack Rugh, C. Madison “Brick” Brewer, George Bason

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Justice Department manager C. Madison Brewer displays his hostility towards Inslaw, Inc., in a meeting to discuss the implementation of the PROMIS application. An Inslaw memorandum of the meeting says, “Brewer seized upon this issue [that Inslaw wanted to be paid for privately-financed enhancements it had made to the software] and launched into a tirade which was very emotional, unorganized, and quite illogical.” Brewer’s complaints are:
bullet The memo claiming the payments is “typical of Inslaw and [Inslaw owner] Bill Hamilton and that it was self-serving and unnecessary.”
bullet How did the Justice Department “know that we might say work was not finished under our government contracts and the next week copyright the work and begin selling it back to the Justice Department?”
bullet A press release about a contract awarded to Inslaw was inaccurate because “it described West Virginia as a successful implementation when in fact, they had spent an additional 20K [$20,000] on the project and Lanier was doing all the work.”
bullet The memo had caused “all kinds of problems in Justice and had many people upset.”
bullet “Illinois Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, Michigan Prosecuting Attorney’s Association, Andy Voight, and others,” would say that “Inslaw did not do good or successful work.”
bullet “Hamilton started the PROMIS system as an employee of the DC, USAO [US Attorneys Office in Washington, DC]. And that all of the software was developed with Federal funds and what right did Hamilton have to try to claim ownership of the software.”
The memo adds, “All of these comments were based with an obvious dislike of Bill Hamilton and a resentment for the success of Inslaw personified in him.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Inslaw, Inc., C. Madison “Brick” Brewer, US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Inslaw files a complaint for a declaratory judgment, the enforcement of automatic stay bankruptcy protection provisions, and damages against the Justice Department in the dispute over the department’s alleged theft of enhanced PROMIS software. The automatic stay is one of the fundamental debtor protections provided by bankruptcy laws. It stops all collection efforts, harassments, and foreclosure actions, giving the debtor temporary relief from creditors. It is important because it allows a bankruptcy court to centralize all disputes concerning property of the debtor’s estate so that reorganization can proceed orderly and efficiently. [US Congress, 9/10/1992] Inslaw’s attorney for the case, Leigh Ratiner of the Washington firm Dickstein, Shapiro & Morin, chooses the bankruptcy court for the filing based on the premise that the Justice Department, as the creditor, has control of enhanced PROMIS. He will later say: “It was forbidden by the Bankruptcy Act for the creditor to exercise control over the debtor property. And that theory—that the Justice Department was exercising control—was the basis that the bankruptcy court had jurisdiction. As far as I know, this was the first time this theory had been used. This was ground-breaking.” [Wired News, 3/1993] Inslaw claims that Justice Department manager C. Madison Brewer, who was responsible for implementing PROMIS in the department, was instrumental in propelling Inslaw into bankruptcy (see April 1982, April 14, 1982, and April 19, 1982), and that he then hindered Inslaw in its development of a reorganization plan. Inslaw also alleges that its concerns were made known to the highest levels of Justice Department’s management, without any response. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, Leigh Ratiner, C. Madison “Brick” Brewer, Inslaw, Inc., Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

The Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), a Justice Department oversight component, receives a letter from Laurie A. Westly, chief counsel to Senator Paul Simon (D-IL), asking for its view of allegations made by the software company Inslaw against the Justice Department. The letter mentions claims of misconduct by department official Lowell Jensen. Westly also refers to litigation recently initiated by Inslaw (see June 9, 1986), specifically the claim that Jensen contributed to the bankruptcy of Inslaw and had a negative bias toward its software. She also asks whether Jensen has breached any ethical or legal responsibility as a department employee. [US Congress, 9/10/1992] It is unclear what action the OPR takes in response to this matter. However, it conducts a preliminary investigation into whether Jensen was biased against Inslaw this year, and this may be in response to this letter (see 1986). It will also begin a fuller investigation the next year (see October 14, 1987).

Entity Tags: Lowell Jensen, Laurie A. Westly, Office of Professional Responsibility, Paul Martin Simon, Inslaw, Inc., US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

The Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), an oversight unit at the Justice Department, conducts an initial review of bias allegations against departmental officials in the Inslaw affair. The exact timing of the review is uncertain, although it may come after a query about the case from Senator Paul Simon in June (see June 16, 1986). The review finds that there is no misconduct by Justice Department manager Lowell Jensen. According to statements made by acting OPR counsel Robert Lyon and assistant counsel David Bobzein to the House Judiciary Committee in 1990, the OPR does not perform a full review at this time because the allegations of bias are not an issue OPR would normally review. Therefore, it plans to rely on the findings of a bankruptcy court hearing the Inslaw case (see June 9, 1986). However, after the bankruptcy court finds in favour of Inslaw (see September 28, 1987), partly because it thinks the bias allegations are well founded, OPR begins a full investigation (see October 14, 1987) and concludes there was no bias (see March 31, 1989). [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, Office of Professional Responsibility, David Bobzein, Inslaw, Inc., Lowell Jensen, Robert Lyon

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Justice Department staff tell Attorney General Edwin Meese that Judge George Bason of the Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia is “off his rocker,” according to a sworn statement Meese will later make to the House Judiciary Committee. Bason is presiding over a dispute between the department and the software company Inslaw (see June 9, 1986) and will eventually rule against the department (see September 28, 1987). This comment appears to be part of a campaign to get Bason removed from the case (see June 19, 1987) and a judge more favorable to the department appointed. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Edwin Meese, US Department of Justice, George Bason

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Judge George Bason of the Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia issues an oral finding that the Justice Department “took, converted, and stole” the enhanced version of Inslaw’s PROMIS software by “trickery, fraud, and deceit.” The ruling is issued at the end of a trial that lasts over two weeks and involves sworn statements from over 40 witnesses and thousands of pages of documentary evidence. Bason finds that a key departmental official, project manager C. Madison Brewer, was biased against Inslaw (see April 1982, April 14, 1982, and April 19, 1982). In addition, Brewer’s boss Lowell Jensen (see December 29, 1983 and February 1984) is said to have “a previously developed negative attitude about PROMIS and Inslaw,” because he had been associated with the development of a rival case management system while he was a district attorney in California, and this affected his judgment throughout his oversight of the contract. Further, the department violated bankruptcy protection legislation that applied to Inslaw by using and exercising control over Inslaw’s property—the enhanced PROMIS software—without negotiating a license fee. This oral finding is confirmed in a written opinion issued on January 25, 1988. In the written finding, Bason adds, “[T]his court finds and concludes that the department never intended to meet its commitment and that once the department had received enhanced PROMIS pursuant to Modification 12 (see April 11, 1983), the department thereafter refused to bargain in good faith with Inslaw and instead engaged in an outrageous, deceitful, fraudulent game of ‘cat and mouse,’ demonstrating contempt for both the law and any principle of fair dealing.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, Lowell Jensen, George Bason, C. Madison “Brick” Brewer, Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia, Inslaw, Inc.

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

The Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), an oversight component at the Justice Department, begins an investigation into allegations made by the software company Inslaw against some Justice Department staff. The OPR had conducted a preliminary investigation the previous year (see 1986), concluding the officials were not biased against the company. However, after a bankruptcy court finds serious wrongdoing by departmental officials (see September 28, 1987), Deputy Attorney General Arnold Burns asks for “a complete and thorough investigation into the allegation of bias and misconduct by various Justice Department officials against Inslaw.” The full investigation will again conclude that the officials were not biased against Inslaw (see March 31, 1989). [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, Arnold Burns, Office of Professional Responsibility, Inslaw, Inc.

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

The Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), an oversight unit at the Justice Department, issues a report on the Inslaw affair over the department’s alleged theft of enhanced PROMIS software. The report finds that allegations of bias made by Inslaw and seconded by a bankruptcy court (see September 28, 1987) against departmental officials are unsupported. Inslaw had questioned the performance of former Attorney General Edwin Meese, former Deputy Attorney General Lowell Jensen, former Deputy Attorney General Arnold Burns, and others. The OPR says that the court’s findings on misconduct by department officials are “clearly erroneous.” In addition, the report says: “There is no credible evidence that the department took or stole Inslaw’s enhanced PROMIS by trickery, fraud, and deceit. Additionally, we have found no credible evidence that there existed in the department a plot to move to convert Inslaw’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy to one under Chapter 7 of the bankruptcy code.” The House Judiciary Committee will be extremely critical of this investigation, commenting, “During its investigation OPR chose to ignore the court’s findings and conclusions that there was bias against Inslaw at the department.” In addition, the committee will say that the OPR looked at the bias allegations in isolation and “incredibly” did not examine the merits of the contract dispute, meaning its conclusions on the taking of PROMIS and the type of bankruptcy were “gratuitous,” especially as Burns had told it the department agreed Inslaw owned the enhancements it made to PROMIS (see August 11, 1982). The committee will also point out that the OPR’s deputy counsel, Richard M. Rogers, said he was recused from the investigation because of his association with Burns, although he was present when Meese provided a sworn statement. In this context, the committee will highlight problems found by the Government Accountability Office with OPR around this time (see February 7, 1992). [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, Office of Professional Responsibility, Richard M. Rogers, Inslaw, Inc., Arnold Burns, Edwin Meese, Lowell Jensen, House Judiciary Committee

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Judge Christine Miller of the Court of Federal Claims rejects allegations by the software firm Inslaw that the Justice Department illegally stole its enhanced PROMIS software and distributed it. The finding is contained in a 186-page opinion issued by Miller that says there is “no merit to the claims.” The decision follows a three-week trial. The matter was sent to the court by Congress, which referred the case as a part of considerations about whether to pass a private bill to compensate Inslaw. The original contract required Inslaw to install in US attorneys’ offices a public domain version of PROMIS owned by the government. But, according to Miller, without notice to the government, Inslaw installed a different version of the software and then asserted that the government could not use the software in other offices. (Note: the contract was signed in March 1982 (see March 1982), and Inslaw notified the department of the enhancements on April 2 (see April 2, 1982).) Miller’s findings are:
bullet Inslaw has not shown it has any ownership rights to the software and that the enhancements it claims are not proprietary to it. Miller says that some of the enhancements do actually exist—12 of the over 100 Inslaw says it made—but Inslaw cannot demonstrate it owns them;
bullet Neither has Inslaw shown that the department acted improperly in any way in connection with the software, as it had unlimited rights to the enhanced software it received and acted in good faith;
bullet Inslaw’s decision to take its case to the bankruptcy court, rather than courts with certain jurisdiction to hear it, was a tactical one (see June 9, 1986);
bullet A panel of independent experts appointed by the judge to review other software applications Inslaw claims are pirated versions of PROMIS found that Inslaw’s allegations were false;
bullet In addition to not having a legal claim against the US, Inslaw does not have an equitable claim either, because it did not own the software and the Justice Department acted properly.
Assistant Attorney General Frank Hunger, head of the civil division, comments: “Both parties benefit from having a decision from a court with authority to resolve the matter—a court that has heard all the evidence. And the public benefits because all the evidence has been aired and they can be confident that the facts have finally been revealed. Certainly, the department benefits from the lifting of the cloud that has hung over it for a decade.” As the court investigated the matter at the request of Congress, the decision will be sent back there, although Inslaw will have the chance to appeal the matter to a three-judge panel at the same court beforehand. [US Department of Justice, 8/4/1997]

Entity Tags: Inslaw, Inc., Frank Hunger, Christine Miller, Court of Federal Claims, US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

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