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Inslaw and PROMIS

Origin of Dispute between Justice Department and Inslaw

Project: US Civil Liberties
Open-Content project managed by Paul, KJF, mtuck, paxvector

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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

Category Tags: Origin of Dispute

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

Category Tags: Origin of Dispute

Edwin Meese, Counsellor to President Ronald Reagan, praises the PROMIS application at a gathering of prosecutors. He calls it “one of the greatest opportunities for [law enforcement] success in the future.” PROMIS is a database search system to help prosecutors find information about cases and people involved in them. [Wired News, 3/1993]

Entity Tags: Edwin Meese

Category Tags: Origin of Dispute

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.

Category Tags: Origin of Dispute

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.

Category Tags: Origin of Dispute

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

Category Tags: Origin of Dispute

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

Category Tags: Origin of Dispute

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

Category Tags: Origin of Dispute

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

Category Tags: Origin of Dispute

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

Category Tags: Origin of Dispute

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.

Category Tags: Origin of Dispute

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

Category Tags: Origin of Dispute

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

Category Tags: Origin of Dispute

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

Category Tags: Origin of Dispute

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

Category Tags: Origin of Dispute

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.

Category Tags: Origin of Dispute

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

Category Tags: Origin of Dispute

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

Category Tags: Origin of Dispute

The Justice Department’s PROMIS project manager, C. Madison “Brick” Brewer, writes a memo about potential developments in the project. In the memo, he says he is concerned about the possibility Inslaw, the company that is implementing the PROMIS software, may go bankrupt, and that staff at the Executive Office for US Attorneys may need to take over the project. Brewer also mentions the possibility that the contract with Inslaw could be terminated by the department. Inslaw will enter bankruptcy in 1985, at least partially as a result of the department withholding payments from it (see February 1985). [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

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

Category Tags: Origin of Dispute

The Justice Department makes a counter-proposal in the dispute over whether Inslaw should provide an enhanced version of the PROMIS software and documentation to the department to ensure against the company’s bankruptcy (see December 6, 1982). The counter-proposal is made in a letter from Peter Videnieks, the department’s contracting officer, to Harvey Sherzer, an attorney for Inslaw. Videnieks still wants a copy of the enhanced PROMIS software, but is willing to limit the software’s dissemination to the attorneys’ offices contemplated by the original contract. However, the department does not admit that Inslaw has made privately-funded enhancements to the software, so this limitation on dissemination will only apply if Inslaw can demonstrate the privately-funded enhancements that it claims have actually been made. Nevertheless, no mechanism for producing such proof will be specified. If Inslaw can show the software contains such enhancements, the department will either tell it to remove them, or negotiate regarding inclusion of the enhancements. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

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

Category Tags: Origin of Dispute

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

Category Tags: Origin of Dispute

Peter Videnieks, the Justice Department’s contracting officer, writes to Inslaw to set out the department’s position on a significant modification to a contract between the two organizations. Videnieks agrees that modification 12 “continues to limit dissemination of that version of the PROMIS computer software [a privately-enhanced version] specified in the modification.” He adds that the modification “will continue to apply in the event that the government invokes the provisions of Clause 22, ‘Disputes,’ in that the government will limit dissemination pending a contracting officer’s final decision in the matter.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

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

Category Tags: Origin of Dispute

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

Category Tags: Origin of Dispute

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

Category Tags: Origin of Dispute

Justice Department procurement counsel William Snider issues a legal opinion stating that the department lacks legal justification to terminate part of a contract on the installation of PROMIS software for default. The department’s PROMIS Oversight Committee had decided on this course of action in December (see December 29, 1983), as it said that Inslaw, the company installing PROMIS, was not performing the contract properly. However, the committee decides to terminate the portion of the contract anyway, but for convenience—meaning Inslaw may receive some compensation—not default. PROMIS project manager C. Madison Brewer then notifies INSLAW owner William Hamilton that Deputy Attorney General Lowell Jensen has decided on partial termination. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, Lowell Jensen, William Hamilton, C. Madison “Brick” Brewer, William Snider

Category Tags: Origin of Dispute

Madison “Brick” Brewer, director of the the Office of Management Information Systems Support at the Justice Department’s Executive Office for US Attorneys, argues against accepting a proposal made by Inslaw to resolve the dispute that has arisen over rights to an enhanced version of the PROMIS application. In a memo to Kamal J. Rahal, director of the procurement and contracts staff, Justice Management Division, Brewer warns, “The proposal would substantially alter our rights in data (e.g., we would become a licensee—and thus give up the unlimited rights we currently enjoy).” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: C. Madison “Brick” Brewer, US Department of Justice, Kamal J. Rahal

Category Tags: Origin of Dispute

February 1985: Inslaw Declares Bankruptcy

Inslaw, the owner and developer of the enhanced PROMIS software, declares bankruptcy, applying for Chapter 11 reorganization at the Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia. Inslaw’s poor financial condition is at least partly due to a dispute with the Justice Department over the software, as the department owes it a minimum of $1.6 million in contract payments for implementation, but is withholding them. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

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

Category Tags: Origin of Dispute, Legal Proceedings

In an analysis of an Inslaw proposal for the resolution of the PROMIS dispute, the Executive Office for US Attorneys (EOUSA), a Justice Department component, says that Inslaw has not made any proprietary enhancements to the software. “It appears [to the department] that there are no proprietary enhancements,” says the analysis sent by William P. Tyson, the EOUSA director, to Jay Stephens, the deputy associate attorney general. “All proposals received from Inslaw attempt to force the department into acknowledging Inslaw’s proprietary interest in the US attorneys’ version of PROMIS by offering a license agreement for software maintenance,” Tyson adds. According to the memo, accepting Inslaw’s proposal “would, in effect, ratify Inslaw’s claim that the software is proprietary; not only the micro-computer version which Inslaw proposes to develop, but also the Prime mini-computer version currently operational in 20 districts.” The Justice Department’s position means that it would have unlimited rights to the software. The House Judiciary Committee will later comment that the department “may have used its ‘unlimited rights’ posture as a pretextual basis for its national and international distribution of Enhanced PROMIS outside of the department.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, William P. Tyson, Inslaw, Inc., Executive Office for US Attorneys (DOJ), House Judiciary Committee, Jay B. Stephens

Category Tags: Origin of Dispute

The Justice Department makes enhanced PROMIS software available at multiple locations, outside the framework of its contract with Inslaw on the application’s installation and over protests by the company. The software is first installed at 25 US attorneys’ offices in addition to 20 still covered by a contract between Inslaw and the department (see Between August 29, 1983 and February 18, 1985). According to Inslaw’s counsel Elliot Richardson, an enhanced version of the software is then illegally copied to support an additional two sites. Finally, 31 additional sites are brought on line via telecommunications. These additional, smaller US attorneys’ offices had initially been covered by the contract with Inslaw, but this portion of the contract was terminated in 1984 (see February 1984). Inslaw will repeatedly protest about this installation (see March 14, 1986), and a bankruptcy court will find it is in violation of the law (see September 28, 1987), although this ruling will be overturned (see May 7, 1991). [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

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

Category Tags: Origin of Dispute

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

Category Tags: Origin of Dispute

The Justice Department makes a counterproposal in the dispute with Inslaw over rights to an enhanced version of the PROMIS software. The principles of the settlement, set out by the Justice Management Division’s general counsel Janice A. Sposato in a letter to Inslaw lawyer Harvey Sherzer, are:
bullet The department will not pay Inslaw any additional money for the enhanced software obtained under a contract on implementation of PROMIS at US attorneys’ offices;
bullet Inslaw will recognize that the US government has the right to unrestricted use of the enhanced software obtained under the contract for any federal project, including projects implemented by independent contractors;
bullet The department will agree not to make or permit any disclosure or distribution of the software other than as described above, or as required by federal law.
Inslaw will not accept the counterproposal, and the dispute will continue. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Janice A. Sposato, Harvey Sherzer, US Department of Justice, Inslaw, Inc.

Category Tags: Origin of Dispute

Peter Vidieneks, the Justice Department contracting officer working on the PROMIS contract, declares that Inslaw has not made any proprietary enhancements to the software. He therefore denies Inslaw’s claim of $2.9 million for licensing fees. This means that the Justice Department thinks it owns all versions of PROMIS, whereas Inslaw says it owns one version it has improved through privately-funded enhancements. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

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

Category Tags: Origin of Dispute

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

Category Tags: Origin of Dispute

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

Category Tags: Origin of Dispute

Former Deputy Attorney General Lowell Jensen says that Attorney General Ed Meese was informed about the Justice Department’s dealings with Inslaw. He makes the statement in a sworn deposition to the Office of Professional Responsibility, a Justice Department unit investigating the department’s alleged theft of the enhanced PROMIS case tracking software from Inslaw. Jensen says, “I have had conversations with the attorney general [Meese] about the whole Inslaw matter, as to what had taken place in the PROMIS development and what had taken place with the contract and what decisions had been made by the department with reference to that.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992] However, Meese will tell the House Judiciary Committee he has no recollection of any discussions about case tracking (see July 12, 1990).

Entity Tags: Edwin Meese, Inslaw, Inc., Lowell Jensen, US Department of Justice, Office of Professional Responsibility

Category Tags: Origin of Dispute

Former Attorney General Edwin Meese is interviewed by the House Judiciary Committee about the Inslaw affair. He says that he cannot recall any discussions with former Justice Department official Lowell Jensen about office automation or case tracking at the department. He adds that if there were such a discussion, it would have been casual conversation. [US Congress, 9/10/1992] However, Jensen previously said he discussed the “whole Inslaw matter” with Meese (see June 19, 1987).

Entity Tags: Inslaw, Inc., Lowell Jensen, Edwin Meese, House Judiciary Committee

Category Tags: Origin of Dispute, Oversight by Congress

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