October 30, 2015
Dentons, the global law firm, filed an amicus brief with the Fourth Circuit federal court of appeals today on behalf of its clients, the Professional Services Council—The Voice of the Government Services Industry and the Coalition for Government Procurement in Al Shimari v. CACI Premier Technology, Inc., No. 15-1831. At issue is application of the political question doctrine, and possibly additional pretrial legal defenses such as federal preemption and derivative sovereign immunity, which bar private-party damages suits arising from services that government contractors perform for the U.S. military, both abroad and domestically.
The Al Shimari plaintiffs are Iraqi nationals who were detained and interrogated by the U.S. military at Abu Ghraib prison during the opening months of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. They allege that the defendant contractor’s employees, who assisted the U.S. military with interrogations, conspired with low-level uniformed personnel to utilize harsh interrogation techniques. After considering declarations and other jurisdictional evidence provided by the military, a Virginia federal district court found that the political question doctrine bars the suit. Under the political question doctrine, which is based on the constitutional separation of powers, federal courts cannot second-guess “actual, sensitive, military judgments.” The court held that because the contractor’s employees functioned under the military’s “plenary and direct control,” their alleged tortious conduct cannot be evaluated without second-guessing combat-related military policies and judgments, which the political question doctrine bars courts from doing.
US Litigation co-chair Tami Lyn Azorsky, US Government Contracts chair Jessica Abrahams, and US Litigation partner Lisa Norrett Himes also contributed to the brief. They are part of the firm’s deep bench of trial and appellate attorneys who defend government contractors when sued in connection with the services that they provide the federal government.
The Professional Services Council—The Voice of the Government Services Industry is the professional trade organization for the government services industry. Its membership comprised of nearly 400 member companies of all sizes that provide the Department of Defense and other federal departments and agencies with professional and technology services.
The Coalition for Government Procurement is the single most effective voice for commercial service and product companies selling in the federal market, including by supporting the U.S. military on a worldwide basis. For more than 35 years, the Coalition has brought together public and private sector procurement leaders to work towards the mutual goal of common sense acquisition.
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