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Context of '1990: Court Rules Attorney General Does Not Have to Appoint Special Prosecutor in Inslaw Affair'

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Elliot Richardson, an attorney acting for the software company Inslaw, writes to Attorney General Richard Thornburgh about the dispute with the Justice Department over the department’s alleged misappropriation of enhanced PROMIS software. Richardson complains about a review of the case by the Public Integrity Section (PIS), an oversight component at the department, which came down against Inslaw’s claims (see February 29, 1988). He says that there is a conflict of interest because the department is defending itself against a civil action by Inslaw while at the same time investigating itself over the allegations that form the basis of the action. If the internal investigation found wrongdoing by the department, this would destroy the department’s case in court. His view is that the department has given priority to defending itself against the civil action, not the criminal investigation of its own wrongdoing. Richardson adds that no one from the PIS has contacted him, Inslaw counsel Charles Work, some of the witnesses in the case, or Inslaw’s owners. Despite this, the owners provided the PIS with the names of 30 people who had information relevant to the investigation in December 1988. Therefore, Richardson concludes that the only solution is for the department to appoint an independent counsel. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, Elliot Richardson, Inslaw, Inc., Public Integrity Section, Richard Thornburgh

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

A US District Court rules that Attorney General Richard Thornburgh does not have to appoint a special prosecutor in the Inslaw affair. Inslaw’s attorney Elliot Richardson had filed the case because of a dispute with the Justice Department over allegations that the department had stolen a version of the PROMIS database and search application from the company. However, the court rules against Inslaw, stating that a prosecutor’s decision not to investigate—“no matter how indefensible”—cannot be corrected by any court. [Wired News, 3/1993]

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, Inslaw, Inc., Elliot Richardson, Richard Thornburgh

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

The House Subcommittee on Economic and Commercial Law holds a hearing about the failure of Attorney General Richard Thornburgh to provide full access to all documents and records about the Inslaw case. At the hearing, Inslaw owner William Hamilton and its attorney Elliot Richardson air their complaints about an alleged criminal conspiracy in the Justice Department’s handling of a contract with Inslaw and its alleged theft of an enhanced version of the PROMIS application. Steven Ross, the general counsel to the clerk of the US House of Representatives, refutes the Justice Department’s rationale for withholding documents related to possible wrongdoing by its officials involved with the Inslaw contract. In addition, Government Accountability Office representatives describe deficiencies in the Justice Department’s Information Resources Management Office and its administration of data processing contracts.
Bason's Allegations - Judge George Bason, a bankruptcy judge who had found in favor of Inslaw in a dispute with the department (see September 28, 1987), testifies that he believes his failure to be reappointed as bankruptcy judge was the result of improper influence on the court selection process by the department because of his findings. Bason cites information provided to him by a reporter (see May 1988) and negative statements about him by departmental employees (see June 19, 1987 and June 1987 or Shortly After). After investigating these allegations, the committee will find: “The committee could not substantiate Judge Bason’s allegations. If the Department of Justice had influence over the process, it was subtle, to say the least.” Bason will point out that Norma Johnson, the judge who chaired the meeting at which he was not reappointed (see December 15, 1987), had previously worked with departmental official Stuart Schiffer, who was involved in the Inslaw case. However, the committee will comment that it has “no information that Judge Johnson talked to Mr. Schiffer about Inslaw, Judge Bason, or the bankruptcy judge selection process.”
Thornburgh's Reaction - Following this hearing, Thornburgh agrees to cooperate with the subcommittee, but then fails to provide it with several documents it wants. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Steven Ross, William Hamilton, Richard Thornburgh, Government Accountability Office, Elliot Richardson, George Bason, House Subcommittee on Economic and Commercial Law

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

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