Reported by Brad Friedman, from the road...
The whistleblower lawsuit against voting machine company Hart InterCivic, as filed in federal court on behalf of former employee William Singer, has been withdrawn following a decision by the Supreme Court that makes pursuing the case nearly impossible, according to the law firm who originally filed the complaint.
The suit had been sealed for nearly two years as the Dept. of Justice asked for extension after extension during their decision on whether or not to join the case. Earlier this year, they ultimately decided not to join the case, as we reported last March, leaving the firm of Levin Papantonio Thomas Mitchell Echsner & Proctor, P.A to proceed on their own. The DoJ declines to join some 76% of such cases.
In the interim, while waiting for the DoJ, the case of Rockwell Intl Corp. v. U.S. [PDF] came before the U.S. Supreme Court, and the findings in that decision, as attorney Mike Papantonio told The BRAD BLOG, has "made it next to impossible to proceed with any and all federal whistleblower (qui tam) cases."
The decision found that Rockwell was required to pay millions of dollars under the federal False Claims Act to the federal government, but that the relator of the case --- the insider who blew the whistle --- was not entitled to any of that money, nor even for the millions of dollars accrued in legal costs since the amended complaint, filed with the Justice Dept., included information about which the relator did not have direct inside knowledge.
The SCOTUS finding, as expressed for the majority by Justice Antonin Scalia, may well hamstring future whistleblower cases in federal courts, according to legal experts.
"I used to think qui tam was the way to go," Papantonio told me as his firm was weighing their decision on how to proceed after the case was finally unsealed, "but now I just don't know anymore."
Papantonio's Florida law firm has used the qui tam laws successfully in the past, and has taken on giants such as the Tobacco Industry. After he and his radio partner Robert F. Kennedy Jr. had learned about Singer's case from The BRAD BLOG --- we originally reported Singer's extraordinary saga back in early 2006 --- they decided to launch the federal fraud suit on his behalf later that year.
(I was interviewed about the withdrawal of the federal case by Mike Papantonio for this weekend's Ring of Fire radio program, which he co-hosts with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.. A video version of the interview is also posted on their GoLeft.TV site. Both versions are now posted in full at the end of this article.)
Though the attorneys working on the case have gone out of their way to express their faith in both Singer and his remarkable complaint --- detailing more than 40 federal fraud allegations, and accusing Hart of doctoring voting machines, covering up system failures, including the loss and miscounting of votes, and other malfeasance, in order to attain contracts and payment under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002 --- the chance that millions of dollars spent pursuing the case might be unrecoverable at the end of the process, even if successful, in light of the Rockwell decision, forced them to withdraw the complaint from federal court...