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Context of 'November 22, 1989: District Court Upholds Bankruptcy Court Ruling in Favor of Inslaw'

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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 Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia awards $8 million in damages to Inslaw in the dispute over the Justice Department’s use of the enhanced PROMIS software. The decision follows on from a ruling by the court that the department had violated Inslaw’s automatic stay bankruptcy protection rights by using and copying an enhanced version of Inslaw’s PROMIS software (see September 28, 1987). The award consists of $6.8 million in actual and punitive damages, as well as $1.2 million in attorneys’ fees. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia, US Department of Justice, Inslaw, Inc.

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

The Justice Department appeals an adverse ruling by the Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia in its dispute with Inslaw (see September 28, 1987). The main grounds of the appeal include the following claims:
bullet The bankruptcy court judge appeared to be biased and should have recused himself. In addition, he used the bankruptcy proceedings to find culpability by the government;
bullet Inslaw did not prove that automatic stay protection provisions had been violated;
bullet The bankruptcy court lacked jurisdiction over Inslaw’s claim because the department had not waived its immunity from monetary judgements against the United States;
bullet The dispute is really a contract dispute, not a bankruptcy argument, and should therefore have been heard by the Department of Transportation Board of Contract Appeals;
bullet The court exceeded its authority in the field of damages, and no attorney fees should have been awarded.
The appeal court will find for Inslaw (see November 22, 1989), although its ruling will later be overturned (see May 7, 1991). [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: US District Court for the District of Columbia, Inslaw, Inc., US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

The US District Court for the District of Columbia upholds a bankruptcy court ruling in favor of Inslaw. The ruling concerned the dispute over the PROMIS software between Inslaw and the Justice Department, which was found to have violated bankruptcy protection provisions (see September 28, 1987 and February 2, 1988), but had appealed (see Between February 2, 1988 and November 22, 1989). Judge William Bryant finds that the department knew an enhanced version of PROMIS was Inslaw’s central asset, that ownership of the software was critical to the company’s reorganization in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and that the department’s unilateral claim of ownership and its installation of the enhanced version in offices around the United States violated automatic stay bankruptcy provisions in multiple ways. In addition, Bryant agrees with the bankruptcy court’s conclusion that the department never had any rights to the enhanced version and that “the government acted willfully and fraudulently to obtain property that it was not entitled to under the contract.” In addition, when Inslaw suggested mechanisms to determine whether the private enhancements had been made, the government rejected them, and “when asked to provide an alternative methodology that would be acceptable, the government declined.” The department could have used established procedures to get relief from the automatic stay provisions, but simply chose not to do so. Bryant, who also finds that the department tried to convert Inslaw’s bankruptcy to Chapter 7 liquidation, adds, “What is strikingly apparent from the testimony and depositions of key witnesses and many documents is that Inslaw performed its contract in a hostile environment that extended from the higher echelons of the Justice Department to the officials who had the day-to-day responsibility for supervising its work.” Finally, Bryant finds that, as the case was grounded in bankruptcy law, the bankruptcy court was an appropriate forum to hear the dispute and it did not have to be submitted to the Department of Transportation Board of Contract Appeals, an arena for contract disputes. Although most of the damages awarded are upheld, as Bryant finds the bankruptcy court assessed damages based on the evidence it obtained, he reduces compensatory damages by $655,200.88. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: William Bryant, US Department of Justice, Inslaw, Inc., US District Court for the District of Columbia

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

The US Justice Department appeals an adverse decision of the US District Court for the District of Columbia in the dispute with Inslaw over the alleged theft of the enhanced PROMIS application (see November 22, 1989). The department raises some of the same issues previously raised in its appeal of a bankruptcy court ruling to the District Court and requests a reversal on the basis of the facts found in the bankruptcy court, which it says made “clear errors.” In addition, it argues:
bullet That its use of enhanced PROMIS did not violate automatic stay bankruptcy protection, so the argument should not have been in the bankruptcy court, but before the Department of Transportation Board of Contract Appeals under the Contract Disputes Act;
bullet That since no motion was filed to convert Inslaw from a chapter 11 bankruptcy to a chapter 7, there was no violation of the automatic stay protection in this respect;
bullet That the department has not filed a claim, so it is still entitled to sovereign immunity; and
bullet That damage awards for violation of the automatic stay can only be paid to individuals, not corporations.
The department will be successful and the District Court ruling will be overturned (see May 7, 1991). [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, Inslaw, Inc., US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia reverses two rulings in favor of Inslaw in the dispute over enhanced PROMIS software, following an appeal by the Justice Department (see October 12, 1990). The rulings had been issued by Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia (see September 28, 1987) and the US District Court for the District of Columbia (see November 22, 1989). The reversal is granted on what a House Judiciary Committee report favorable to Inslaw will call “primarily jurisdictional grounds.” The appeal court says the bankruptcy court was the wrong place to litigate the issues it decided and, in any case, the department has not violated automatic stay bankruptcy provisions. However, the appeal court notes that both lower courts found that the department had “fraudulently obtained and then converted Enhanced PROMIS to its own use,” and that “such conduct, if it occurred, is inexcusable.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: House Judiciary Committee, Inslaw, Inc., US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Following an adverse ruling in an appeals court, Inslaw files an appeal for a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court. If the writ were granted, it would mean the Supreme Court agreed to hear a further appeal in the case. The appeals court had reversed bankruptcy and district court rulings favorable to Inslaw in its dispute with the Justice Department over the enhanced PROMIS software (see September 28, 1987, November 22, 1989, and May 7, 1991). The application will be denied (see January 13, 1992). [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

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

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

A judge hearing the PROMIS case for the Department of Transportation Board of Contract Appeals (DOTBCA) says that findings by the Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia and the US District Court for the District of Columbia have left a “cloud” over the Justice Department. The two courts originally found for Inslaw (see September 28, 1987 and November 22, 1989), which is in dispute with the department over an enhanced version of the PROMIS software, but these rulings were overturned on appeal, mostly on jurisdictional grounds (see May 7, 1991). At a hearing, counsel for the department says, “I think those trials speak for themselves, and every order has been vacated.” However, the judge responds: “There is one problem. The fact that a judge or a court doesn’t have jurisdiction doesn’t mean that the court is completely ignorant. True, Mr. Bason [the bankruptcy court judge] and Mr. Bryant [the judge that heard the initial appeal] did not have jurisdiction, but they did make some very serious findings on the basis of sworn testimony. They had been truly vacated, and it may be that all the statutes to run have run and they can’t go anywhere. Those cases may be dead forever. But it has left a cloud over the respondent [the department].” The House Judiciary Committee will comment: “As the DOTBCA judge concluded, there definitely remains a cloud over the department’s handling of Inslaw’s proprietary software. Department officials should not be allowed to avoid accountability through a technicality or a jurisdiction ruling by the Appeals Court.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Department of Transportation Board of Contract Appeals, House Judiciary Committee, Inslaw, Inc., US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

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