Thursday, March 6, 2008
Whistle-Blowing in the Wind
"Complaining that recent court rulings were thwarting efforts by citizens to report fraud against the government, members of a Senate committee said on Wednesday that they wanted to work with the Justice Department to undo some of the harm they thought the courts had caused. ... In one such case, filed against Bombadier Corporation, the would-be-whistle-blower was rejected because the organization said to have been a victim of fraud--Amtrak--was not a government agency. ... In another case, a jury found that an American military contractor, Custer Battles, L.L.C., had committed fraud in connection with a contract to help distribute new currency in Iraq, and returned a $10 million verdict against it. But the judge threw the verdict out, saying the whistle-blower law covered only fraud involving American money, and the funds at issue in the Custer Battles case were Iraqi. ... But one whistle-blower, Tina M. Gonter, testified that she was concerned that court decisions like the one in the Bombadier case could be expanded into a liability shield for subcontractors, letting them 'hide behind the skirts of prime contractors'. ... But even as the recoveries have mounted the [DOJ] has fallen further and further behind on its caseload. More than a thousand whistle-blower suits are languishing under seal at the [DOJ], and almost nothing is publicly known about the cases. 'In light of the Bush Justice Department,' Senator Leahy said, 'many wonder whether it has resisted pursuing certain False Claims cases for political reasons, most notably involving contracting fraud related to the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.' ... Michael F. Hertz [MFH], deputy assistant attorney general for the department's civil division ... said that the [DOJ] would oppose on principle any provision that would let government officials sue contractors on the basis of information they collected in the ordinary course of doing their jobs. That, he said, would undermine the public's trust in the government", Mary Williams Walsh at http://www.nytimes.com/, 28 February 2008.
MFH, don't insult our intelligence. Letting government officials "sue contractors .... would undermine the public's trust in government". Or would it expose whether or not the Bush DOJ is an extortion racket? A judge overturning a jury verdict screams out for changed civil procedure, no more JNOV. Under any circumstances. If a judge wants to grant it, let him beg the jury to reconsider its verdict. If it won't and he can't sign the verdict, let him resign from the bench and let the jury foreperson sign it. JNOV undermines Seventh Amendment. If the judge felt as he did, why did he waste the jury's time and let the case proceed? Was he gambling the jury would "see it his way" and hold for Custer Battles (CB)? Or is he soliciting a job for a relative with CB's law firm?