Washington, D.C. January 13, 2015. U.S District Court Judge James Gwin denied a request by Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR) to stay proceedings brought under the False Claims Act in United States ex rel. Barko v. Halliburton Co. et al., while the defense contractor appeals rulings made late last year.
In November, Judge Gwin ordered KBR to turn over incriminating documents prepared as part of an internal investigation of multi-million dollar war contracting fraud. The order requires KBR to turn over certain internal papers, including investigative reports, which contain evidence of fraud.
KBR argues that the documents concerned should be covered under attorney-client privilege and have filed a writ of mandamus with the D.C. Circuit. However, in his order denying KBR’s request for a stay, Judge Gwin explained that much of the case’s discovery doesn’t concern attorney-client privilege questions and isn’t related to KBR’s appeal.
“A ruling on the mandamus petition would have no obvious impact on Barko’s renewed discovery efforts,” he wrote. “Even if the Court of Appeals disagrees with this court’s earlier orders, KBR must still respond to discovery demands covering relevant matters.”
According to an article published January 12 in The Legal Times, KBR’s petition to the D.C. Circuit personally attacks Judge Gwin’s ability to be impartial in the case stating “that Gwin has ‘crossed the line from neutral arbiter to independent inquisitor’ through his actions on discovery in the case.”
Judge Gwin noted that prior attempts to obtain discovery were “futile” because witnesses were uninformed and improperly instructed not to answer questions. Mr. Barko’s attorney Michael Kohn commented that he believes Judge Gwin’s denial of the stay “will bring an end to the abuse that has framed KBR’s past response to Mr. Barko’s discovery efforts.”
Legal Times: Judge Refuses to Halt False-Claims Case Against KBR