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Context of 'November 10, 1982: Justice Department Says Inslaw in Default of PROMIS Contract'

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An application known as PROMIS, the Prosecutor’s Management Information System, is developed. [Wired News, 3/1993] It is designed to be used to keep track of criminal investigations through a powerful search engine that can quickly access all data items stored about a case. [Salon, 7/23/2008] William Hamilton, one of the application’s developers, will describe what it can be used to do: “Every use of PROMIS in the court system is tracking people. You can rotate the file by case, defendant, arresting officer, judge, defence lawyer, and it’s tracking all the names of all the people in all the cases.” Wired magazine will describe its significance: “What this means is that PROMIS can provide a complete rundown of all federal cases in which a lawyer has been involved, or all the cases in which a lawyer has represented defendant A, or all the cases in which a lawyer has represented white-collar criminals, at which stage in each of the cases the lawyer agreed to a plea bargain, and so on. Based on this information, PROMIS can help a prosecutor determine when a plea will be taken in a particular type of case.” In addition, PROMIS can integrate several databases without requiring any reprogramming, meaning it can “turn blind data into information.” PROMIS is developed by a private business entity that will later become the company Inslaw, Inc. Although there will later be a series of disputes over the application’s use by the US government and others, this version of PROMIS is funded by a Law Enforcement Assistance Administration grant and is therefore in the public domain. [Wired News, 3/1993]

Entity Tags: Inslaw, Inc., William Hamilton

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

C. Madison “Brick” Brewer, the general counsel of the Institute for Law and Social Research, leaves his position. The circumstances of his departure from the institute, which will later be transformed into the company Inslaw, will later be disputed. The departure is significant because Brewer will later be hired by the Justice Department to manage a contract with Inslaw (see April 1982), and will adopt a combative approach to his former employer (see April 14, 1982 and April 19, 1982).
Hamilton's Account - Inslaw owner William Hamilton will later say that Brewer is asked to leave because he is unable to perform his duties, but is given sufficient time to find another job instead of being forced out. Inslaw vice president John Gizarelli will corroborate Hamilton’s account, telling the House Judiciary Committee under oath that Hamilton told him Brewer had been asked to resign.
Contradictory Statements by Brewer - Brewer will give different accounts of his departure. He will tell investigators from the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR): “At no time did he [Hamilton] ever say you are fired and at no time did he [Hamilton] ever indicate great dissatisfaction with my performance.… I never felt that I was discharged, let alone wrongfully discharged.” He will repeat this line to investigators from the House committee: “I never thought that he asked me to leave. It has always been my understanding that I was not asked to leave. I have never viewed my departure from the institute as either being a discharge, or forced.” However, another statement he will make puts a different slant on this; he tells the OPR: “[I]t has been my view that Mr. Hamilton obviously wanted me gone. He had been sending these signals, if not directly indicating a job dissatisfaction, since April, and it was now February, almost one year later, and I was still extricating myself.” In addition, Brewer will say in a court appearance: “On one occasion Mr. Hamilton came and said to me, ‘can you go to lunch?’ I explained that I couldn’t. And he said, ‘Well, what I have to say over lunch I can say right now. I think you ought to find [an] alternative—that you ought to leave the Institute.’”
Impact - The committee will comment, “The circumstances surrounding Mr. Brewer’s departure from the institute appear to have had a major influence over his views about Inslaw and its president, Mr. Hamilton.” Gizarelli will say that he had occasional contact with Brewer before his departure, and: “[H]e thought that Mr. Hamilton was insane. And I think he meant that literally. He did make comments about his rationality, his sanity, thought he wasn’t capable of leading an organization. The tenor of his remarks were to me very startling.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: William Hamilton, Inslaw, Inc., House Judiciary Committee, John Gizarelli, C. Madison “Brick” Brewer

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Laurence McWhorter, director of the Executive Office for US Attorneys, tells one of his subordinates, “We’re out to get Inslaw.” Inslaw developed the PROMIS database and search application (see Mid-1970s) and is soon to become embroiled in a dispute with the Justice Department over it. Mallgrave will later tell Wired magazine: “We were just in his office for what I call a B.S. type discussion. I remember it was a bright sunny morning.… [McWhorter] asked me if I would be interested in assuming the position of assistant director for data processing… basically working with Inslaw. I told him… I just had no interest in that job. And then, almost as an afterthought, he said ‘We’re out to get Inslaw.’ I remember it to this day.” [Wired News, 3/1993]

Entity Tags: Inslaw, Inc., Frank Mallgrave, Executive Office for US Attorneys (DOJ), Laurence McWhorter

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

The Justice Department issues a request for proposals (RFP) for the installation of public domain PROMIS software. Two of the 104 companies that ask for the request for proposals submit bids. However, one of them, Systems Architects, Inc., has problems in its bid and the contract will be awarded to the other, Inslaw (see March 1982).
Problems with Installation Concept - The installation is to be on minicomputers and word processors, although both Inslaw, which developed PROMIS, and other potential bidders had previously advised the department not to try to perform PROMIS functions on word processing equipment, as it is not powerful enough. One reason for this is that PROMIS involves over 500,000 lines of Common Business Oriented Language (COBOL) program code and requires a very large-capacity computer at this time. In addition, Inslaw advises the department to move toward the use of more powerful computers that could perform both case management and word processing. However, the department ignores the advice.
Existence of Privately-Funded Enhancements 'Explicit' - There will later be an argument about how much the department should pay Inslaw for the software. This dispute will turn on privately-funded enhancements to the application Inslaw says it makes after an initial version of PROMIS was developed using government money. According to a report drafted by the House Judiciary Committee, during the contract negotiations, Inslaw is “explicit in stating to the department that its version of PROMIS had been enhanced with private funds and future enhancements funded outside the department’s contract were expected.” Nevertheless, the department will say that it owns the software, and will cite as support amendments to the RFP that make available to all bidders copies of the pilot project software, and state that the RFP does not anticipate redevelopment of the public domain PROMIS software used in the pilot offices. If any alterations are made under the contract, they are to be made available to the offices using a current version. Regarding the amendments, the committee will comment, “Unfortunately, this language may also have blinded department management to the idea that Inslaw had made privately funded enhancements that were its property.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, House Judiciary Committee, Inslaw, Inc., Systems Architects, Inc.

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Inslaw wins a $9.6 million contract from the Justice Department to install the public domain vesion of PROMIS application in 20 US attorneys’ offices as a pilot program. PROMIS is an application designed to be used by prosecutors to keep track of case records (see Mid-1970s). If the trial installation is successful, the company will install PROMIS in the remaining 74 federal prosecutors’ offices around the country. The contract is also for the necessary training, maintenance, and support for three years. According to William Hamilton, one of Inslaw’s owners, the eventual market for complete automation of the Federal court system is worth up to $3 billion. However, this is the last contract Inslaw receives from the Justice Department for PROMIS, as the deal becomes mired in a series of disputes. [US Congress, 9/10/1992; Wired News, 3/1993]

Entity Tags: William Hamilton, US Department of Justice, Inslaw, Inc.

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

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

A lawyer acting for Inslaw writes to the Justice Department telling it that Inslaw intends to market a version of the PROMIS software commercially. The lawyer, Roderick M. Hills of Latham & Watkins, tells Associate Deputy Attorney General Stanley E. Morris, who is also a member of the committee overseeing PROMIS, that, even though the software was initially developed with government money (see Mid-1970s), private enhancements to it mean that Inslaw can sell the improved version for a fee. The letter is accompanied by a memorandum from Inslaw owner William Hamilton explaining the situation. Inslaw and the department have just signed a contract for Inslaw to implement the public domain version of the software at US attorneys’ offices for the department (see March 1982). However, the privately-funded enhancements mean that if the department chose to use the latest version, it would have to pay for the actual software, as well as installation and maintenance costs. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Inslaw, Inc., Latham, Watkins & Hills, Roderick M. Hills, William Hamilton

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

Inslaw asks the Justice Department to appoint a manager other than C. Madison “Brick” Brewer to run the PROMIS project that Inslaw is working on for the department. Brewer had formerly worked for Inslaw, but had left under a cloud (see 1976), and later been hired by the department to supervise the contract between it and Inslaw (see April 1982). Following initial problems with Brewer (see April 14, 1982 and April 19, 1982), Inslaw asks Associate Deputy Attorney General Stanley E. Morris to replace him, as Inslaw owner William Hamilton thinks he has antagonistic feelings toward Inslaw due to their past. However, departmental officials say that Brewer’s skills and prior employment with Inslaw were important factors in his hiring by the department. Laurence McWhorter, deputy director of the Executive Office for US Attorneys, will later say that Brewer’s employment by Inslaw qualified him to “run the implementation of a case tracking system for US attorneys” and “to basically direct the implementation of a case tracking system in US attorneys offices.” The House Judiciary Committee will comment, “It is difficult to understand, however, how… McWhorter could make this statement” because Brewer himself admitted that at the time he left Inslaw, “he had very little, if any, experience in managing computer projects and government ADP [automated data processing] procurement law,” and he also “admitted to a lack of experience or detailed understanding of computers or software.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: William Hamilton, Stanley E. Morris, US Department of Justice, Inslaw, Inc., C. Madison “Brick” Brewer, Executive Office for US Attorneys (DOJ), Laurence McWhorter, House Judiciary Committee

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Inslaw enhances its PROMIS software under contract to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, part of the Justice Department. The improvement, known as the “printed inquiry enhancement,” is delivered to the department on May 17, 1982. As the development of the original software and this enhancement is government-funded (see Mid-1970s), Inslaw cannot charge for providing the software to the government solely by virtue of this improvement. However, Inslaw also says it makes privately-funded enhancements at this time, enabling it to charge a fee for a version of the application with these enhancements (see April 2, 1982 and July 17, 1982). [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Bureau of Justice Statistics, US Department of Justice, Inslaw, Inc.

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Inslaw’s attorney James Rogers writes to the Justice Department in an attempt to allay fears the department has about the implementation of the company’s PROMIS software for it. Rogers provides Associate Deputy Attorney General Stanley E. Morris with a detailed description of what the company plans to do to market the software commercially from the next month, and asks that the department respond to Inslaw to “ensure that these representations are correct.” Rogers says that the version of PROMIS the company will market comprises three parts: (1) the original application developed with government money (see Mid-1970s); (2) enhancements made by Inslaw using private money (see April 2, 1982 and July 17, 1982); and (3) an enhancement made for the Bureau of Justice Statistics (see Before May 17, 1982). Parts (1) and (3) do not entitle Inslaw to market the software commercially themselves. However, part (2) does. At the Justice Department, both C. Madison “Brick” Brewer, who supervises the PROMIS contract, and Peter Videnieks, the department’s contracting officer, are unhappy with this intention. The House Judiciary Committee will comment that this letter is “followed by a very antagonistic meeting” between Brewer and Inslaw representatives, and that Brewer and Videnieks continue “to believe that, because the department was currently funding the implementation of PROMIS, they could ignore Inslaw’s proprietary interest in the privately funded enhancements made to the PROMIS software.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Stanley E. Morris, US Department of Justice, Inslaw, Inc., C. Madison “Brick” Brewer, House Judiciary Committee, Peter Videnieks

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

In an internal memo, Inslaw employee John Gizarelli outlines a problem concerning the PROMIS project with the Justice Department official handling the contract, C. Madison “Brick” Brewer (see April 14, 1982, April 19, 1982, and Mid-April 1982). Brewer had left Inslaw under a cloud in the mid-1970s (see 1976), but is now overseeing the PROMIS implementation project at the Justice Department. Gizarelli writes to Inslaw vice president Dean Merrill that Brewer “has made no secret of his dislike of [Inslaw president] Bill Hamilton.” He adds: “In his present job, he is in a position to demonstrate his dislike. Bill, however, has kept his distance from the project and probably will continue to do so, until and unless there are large problems which Bill—in his role as president—must deal with personally. It is entirely possible—and I believe likely—that Brick will escalate the level of controversy until he draws Bill into the project, at which time he will be able to ‘lord it over him’ and show who’s boss. I don’t think Brick will ever be at peace with his feelings about Bill and therefore, with us.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Inslaw, Inc., Dean Merrill, John Gizarelli, C. Madison “Brick” Brewer, William Hamilton

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Joyce Demy, an employee of the software company Inslaw, writes to the firm’s lawyer saying that it made enhancements to its PROMIS software worth $1 million between May 1981 and May 1982. She also tells the lawyer, James Rogers of Latham, Watkins & Hills, that no government money was used for the enhancements, which were paid for solely out of private funds. Prior to the enhancements, the original PROMIS software was in the public domain, as it had been paid for by government money (see Mid-1970s). However, the various privately-funded enhancements mean that Inslaw can claim ownership of it. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Inslaw, Inc., James Rogers, Joyce Demy, Latham, Watkins & Hills

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Associate Deputy Attorney General Stanley Morris writes to James Rogers, an attorney acting for Inslaw, and admits that the company owns privately funded improvements to the PROMIS software. Morris first points out that part of the software was financed by the government: “We agree that the original PROMIS, as defined in your letter of May 26, 1982 (see May 26, 1982), is in the public domain. We also agree that the printed inquiry enhancement is in the public domain.” This means that Inslaw could never charge the department for the use of software comprising only the original application and the printed inquiry enhancement (although it could of course charge for installation and maintenance). However, Morris adds, “To the extent that any other enhancements to the system were privately funded by Inslaw and not specified to be delivered to the Department of Justice under any contract or other arrangement, Inslaw may assert whatever proprietary rights it may have.” This means the department agrees that Inslaw can sell a version of the software with privately-funded enhancements. [US Congress, 9/10/1992] This statement is made in response to a letter sent by lawyers acting for Inslaw founder William Hamilton, informing the department that Inslaw intends to become a private company, and asking it to waive any proprietary rights it might claim to the enhanced version. Clarification will be provided in a 1988 deposition in which Deputy Attorney General Arnold Burns will say, “Our lawyers were satisfied that Inslaw’s lawyers could sustain the claim in court, that we had waived those [proprietary] rights.” [Wired News, 3/1993]

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, William Hamilton, Arnold Burns, Inslaw, Inc., Stanley E. Morris

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Peter Videnieks, the Justice Department’s contracting officer, writes to Inslaw and says that it is in default of a clause in a contract between it and the government on the installation of PROMIS software. The clause concerns advance payments made by the department, which Inslaw needs to receive for its work under the contract in order to keep on operating as a business. Due to Inslaw’s poor financial situation, the House Judiciary Committee will comment that withholding the advance payments would have a “devastating impact” on the company, and Videnieks will later say he was aware of this, stating, “I think I was advised at the same time that Inslaw may indeed have difficulty in meeting the December payroll, and I think in general I was advised that they were in bad financial condition.” Due to its lack of cash, Inslaw had assigned rights to the advance payments to a financial institution to secure a line of credit. Justice Department PROMIS project manager C. Madison “Brick” Brewer will say that the reason the department is considering terminating the advance payments is a loan Inslaw has from the Bank of Bethesda, under which a lien was placed on the advance payments received by Inslaw from a specific account (not the account itself). According to Brewer, the lien is contrary to the contract and places the government in financial risk. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, House Judiciary Committee, C. Madison “Brick” Brewer, Peter Videnieks, Inslaw, Inc.

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

A technical representative for the Justice Department formally asks Inslaw for a copy of the PROMIS software currently being used by US attorneys’ offices. The department will later say that this request is motivated by concern over the financial viability of Inslaw, although the company is in financial difficulty because the government is withholding advance payments it owes (see November 10, 1982). At this time, the department has not yet obtained the minicomputer hardware for each attorney’s office and Inslaw has arranged for the largest US attorneys’ offices to use PROMIS on a time-sharing basis. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Inslaw, Inc., US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Peter Videnieks, the Justice Department’s contracting officer, writes to Inslaw to demand that it turn over all computer programs and supporting documentation relating to a contract to install PROMIS software for the department (see March 1982). In response, Inslaw says it will not do this without the department modifying the contract between them to acknowledge that it has inserted privately-funded enhancements into a public domain version developed for the department. This modification is apparently required because the department is using a time-share version of the application in advance of full installation, and Inslaw’s other timesharing customers also use a version with the enhancements. The department then says that the original contract called for software in which the government has unlimited rights, and asks Inslaw to identify the parts of the software it claims are proprietary. Inslaw offers to provide the enhanced software to the 94 attorneys’ offices covered by the contract at no extra charge, provided the department agrees to Inslaw’s rights and does not disseminate the software beyond these offices. However, Videnieks will later tell investigators for the House Judiciary Committee that the department believed that it had unlimited rights to any versions of PROMIS, and if restrictions were placed on data rights, then this would not satisfy Inslaw’s obligation under the contract. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Inslaw, Inc., US Department of Justice, Peter Videnieks

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Inslaw and the Justice Department conclude a modification, number 12, to a contract under which the company is to install PROMIS software for the department (March 1982). The modification appears to resolve a dispute that has arisen between the two parties (see December 6, 1982 and March 18, 1983), as the department wants Inslaw to give it a copy of the software, but Inslaw says it has made privately-funded enhancements to the code and wants the department to undertake not to disseminate the enhanced software beyond the locations specified in the original contract (the department is entitled to disseminate an earlier, public domain version of the contract any way it wants). The modification says that Inslaw will give the department a copy of the software, and the department undertakes not to disseminate it in future, provided that Inslaw can demonstrate the enhancements were actually made. As a result of the agreement, the department will continue to make advance payments to Inslaw. It is this modification that leads to a series of legal disputes that will last well into the next decade, as the parties never come to an agreement on how the enhancements are to be demonstrated and the department begins to disseminate the software unchecked. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Inslaw, Inc., US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Inslaw implements its enhanced PROMIS software at 20 US attorneys’ offices. The implementation is performed pursuant to a contract signed by the company and the Justice Department in 1982 (March 1982). [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Inslaw, Inc., US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Deputy Attorney General Lowell Jensen and other members of the Justice Department’s PROMIS Oversight Committee approve the termination of part of a contract with Inslaw, Inc., for the installation of PROMIS software (see March 1982). The termination, pushed through despite a report that there was progress with Inslaw’s attorney on the resolution of contract problems, only concerns the part of the contract for the installation of PROMIS on word processing hardware in 74 small US attorneys’ offices. Inslaw will still be contracted to install the application in 20 other US attorneys’ offices. The termination is to be for default, as Inslaw has allegedly failed to perform this portion of the contract, although a different reason will later be given (see February 1984). [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Lowell Jensen, US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Inslaw representatives Elliot Richardson and Donald Santarelli, a former administrator of the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, meet with acting Deputy Attorney General Lowell Jensen to discuss a resolution of the Inslaw affair concerning the Justice Department’s alleged misappropriation of enhanced PROMIS software. Richardson and Santarelli ask for rapid talks to resolve disputes that have caused the department to withhold money from Inslaw and the company to go bankrupt, that the department consider a new proposal for work by Inslaw, and that Jensen appoint somebody to investigate Inslaw’s claims that some department officials, in particular C. Madison Brewer (see 1976 and April 1982), are biased against it. The business proposal is that Inslaw implement PROMIS in smaller US attorneys’ offices. This was originally covered by a contract between Inslaw and the department (see March 1982), but this part of the contract was terminated in 1984 (see December 29, 1983 and February 1984). [US Congress, 9/10/1992] The department rejects the proposal for additional work, but it is unclear whether the allegations against Brewer and others are investigated (see After March 13, 1985).

Entity Tags: Elliot Richardson, Donald Santarelli, Inslaw, Inc., Lowell Jensen, US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Inslaw complains about additional installations of enhanced PROMIS software by the Justice Department. Inslaw and the department had a contract for the company to install the software in 20 large US attorneys’ offices and then dozens of smaller ones (see March 1982), but the portion of the contract for the smaller offices was terminated (see February 1984), and the department is installing an enhanced version of the software Inslaw says it owns in these smaller offices (see Between June 24, 1985 and September 2, 1987). The complaint is made in a letter by Inslaw president William Hamilton to H. Lawrence Wallace, the assistant attorney general for administration. “I am extremely disturbed and disappointed to learn that the Executive Office for US Attorneys has begun to manufacture copies of the PROMIS software for customization and installation in additional US attorneys offices, specifically those in St. Louis, Missouri, and Sacramento, California,” Hamilton writes. “This action occurs at the very time that the Department of Justice and Inslaw are attempting to resolve, by negotiation, Inslaw’s claim that the US attorneys version of PROMIS contains millions of dollars of privately-financed enhancements that are proprietary products of Inslaw and for which Inslaw has, to date, received no compensation.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: H. Lawrence Wallace, Inslaw, Inc., US Department of Justice, William Hamilton

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), 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

Senator Charles Mathias (R-MD) sends a letter to the Justice Department asking about the dispute with Inslaw over enhanced PROMIS software. The letter will spark interest by Deputy Attorney General Arnold Burns in the case (see After July 9, 1986). [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Charles Mathias, US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Deputy Attorney General Arnold Burns is told that the Justice Department has waived its rights to enhanced PROMIS software (see August 11, 1982). Following a letter asking about the Inslaw case from Senator Charles Mathias (see July 9, 1986), Burns asks subordinates about the litigation with Inslaw and is told the company wants the department to pay royalties. Burns then suggests that the issue should be turned around and that a claim against Inslaw should be made for it to pay royalties to the government, which funded the development of the first version of PROMIS (see Mid-1970s). However, further research comes up with a result shocking to Burns, who will say in 1988, “The answer that I got, which I wasn’t terribly happy with but which I accepted, was that there had been a series of old correspondence and back and forthing [sic] and stuff, that in all of that, our lawyers were satisfied that Inslaw could sustain the claim in court, that we had waived those rights, not that I was wrong that we didn’t have them but that somebody in the Department of Justice, in a letter or letters, as I say in this back and forthing [sic], had, in effect, waived those rights.” The House Judiciary Committee will later comment, “Considering that the deputy attorney general was aware of Inslaw’s proprietary rights, the department’s pursuit of litigation can only be understood as a war of attrition between the department’s massive, tax-supported resources and Inslaw’s desperate financial condition, with shrinking (courtesy of the department) income.” The committee will add, “In light of Mr. Burns’ revelation, it is important to note that committee investigators found no surviving documentation (from that time frame) which reveal the department’s awareness of the relative legal positions of the department and Inslaw, on Inslaw’s claims to proprietary enhancements referred to by Mr. Burns.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Inslaw, Inc., House Judiciary Committee, Arnold Burns, US Department of Justice

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

The CIA says that it does not have the PROMIS database and search application (see Mid-1970s). The statement is made in response to a letter sent to CIA Director William Webster by the House Judiciary Committee on November 20 asking him to help them “by determining whether the CIA has the PROMIS software.” In response the CIA states, “We have checked with Agency components that track data processing procurement or that would be likely users of PROMIS, and we have been unable to find any indication that the [CIA] ever obtained PROMIS software.” However, information contradicting this will subsequently emerge. For example, a retired CIA official whose job it is to investigate the Inslaw allegations internally will tell Wired magazine that the Justice Department gave PROMIS to the CIA: “Well, the Congressional committees were after us to look into allegations that somehow the agency had been culpable of what would have been, in essence, taking advantage of, like stealing, the technology [PROMIS]. We looked into it and there was enough to it, the agency had been involved.” However, the official will say that when the CIA accepted PROMIS, it did not know that there was a serious dispute about the Justice Department’s ownership of the software. [Wired News, 3/1993]

Entity Tags: William H. Webster, House Judiciary Committee, Central Intelligence Agency, US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Attorney General William Barr appoints Nicholas Bua, a retired federal judge from Chicago, as his special counsel to investigate and advise him on the Inslaw controversy. The affair has been running for nearly a decade and stems from a dispute over a contract signed by the Justice Department and Inslaw in 1982 (see March 1982). However, because Bua does not have independent status, the House Judiciary Committee will comment, “as long as the investigation of wrongdoing by former and current high level Justice officials remains under the ultimate control of the department itself, there will always be serious doubt about the objectivity and thoroughness of the inquiry.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Nicholas Bua, US Department of Justice, House Judiciary Committee, William P. Barr

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) releases a study of the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) called “Employee Misconduct: Justice Should Clearly Document Investigative Actions.” The report is drafted at the request of the House Government Information, Justice, and Agriculture Subcommittee. The GAO finds that:
bullet OPR operates informally, does not routinely document key aspects of its investigations, and provides little background information in its case documentation;
bullet OPR generally does not record the complete scope of and rationale behind its investigations, or of the decisions reached in the course of its investigations;
bullet OPR’s conclusions that allegations are or are not substantiated are generally not explained;
bullet In many instances, OPR does not pursue all available avenues of inquiry;
bullet OPR counsel rely on an attorney’s judgment and informal consulting among attorneys within OPR as the basis for making decisions and reaching conclusions about specific investigations.
The GAO concludes that these failings expose the OPR and the department to a range of risks, such as if OPR’s informality led it to conclude an investigation prematurely, the department’s integrity could be compromised. In addition, if asked to defend an investigation against a charge that it was not aggressively pursued, OPR probably would not have sufficient documentation to do so. A review of the quality of an investigation based on the documentation would yield little information. Therefore, the GAO recommends that OPR:
bullet Establish basic standards for conducting its investigations;
bullet Establish case documentation standards;
bullet Follow up more consistently on the results of misconduct investigations done by other units and what disciplinary actions, if any, are taken as a result of all misconduct investigations. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Government Accountability Office, Subcommittee on Government Information, Justice, and Agriculture, Office of Professional Responsibility, US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties, Misc Entries

The Justice Department issues a 187-page report clearing department officials of wrongdoing in the Inslaw affair, which concerned the alleged misappropriation of an enhanced version of PROMIS software. According to a department press release, “there is no credible evidence that department officials conspired to steal computer software developed by Inslaw, Inc. or that the company is entitled to additional government payments.” This concurs with a previous report by Nicolas Bua, a special counsel appointed by the department. The main points of the report are:
bullet The use of PROMIS by the Executive Office of United States Attorneys and in US attorneys’ offices conforms with contractual agreements, and Inslaw is not entitled to additional compensation for the use of its PROMIS software;
bullet No independent counsel should be appointed and the matter should be closed;
bullet The investigative journalist Danny Casolaro, who died while investigating the Inslaw affair and other issues, committed suicide;
bullet MIT professor Dr. Randall Davis was hired to compare the computer code in Inslaw’s PROMIS software with the code in the FBI’s FOIMS software, which Inslaw claimed was a pirated version of PROMIS. Davis concluded that there was no relation between FOIMS and PROMIS;
bullet Two of the people who made allegations about the distribution of PROMIS outside the Justice Department, Michael Riconosciuto and Ari Ben-Menashe, are untrustworthy. The departmental press release calls them “primary sources relied on by Inslaw”;
bullet None of the anonymous sources that had previously been reported to have made statements supportive of Inslaw came forward, despite assurances from Attorney General Janet Reno that they would be protected from reprisals. The press release says, “Individuals who were identified as sources denied making the statements attributed to them by Inslaw”;
bullet The department did not obstruct the reappointment of bankruptcy Judge George Bason, who ruled in favour of Inslaw (see September 28, 1987, November 24, 1987, December 8, 1987, December 15, 1987, and January 12, 1988);
bullet No documents related to the matter have been destroyed by the Justice Department command center;
bullet There is no credible evidence that Inslaw’s PROMIS is being used elsewhere in the government (see 1982-1984, December 11, 1990, and May 2008), or has been improperly distributed to a foreign government or entity (see May 6, 1983, May 12, 1983, November 1990, and January 1991);
bullet PROMIS was not stolen to raise money to reward people working for the release of American hostages in Iran, to penetrate foreign intelligence agencies, as part of a US-Israeli slush fund connected with the late British publisher Robert Maxwell, or in aid of a secret US intelligence agency concealed within the Office of Special Investigations Nazi-hunting unit. [US Department of Justice, 9/27/1994]

Entity Tags: George Bason, Daniel Casolaro, Inslaw, Inc., Randall Davis, US Department of Justice

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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