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March 04, 2024 News

Contract Claims Disputes Resolutions Committee Involvement Brings Diverse Perspectives

Adrianne Goins

The Contract Claims & Disputes Resolution Committee

I have been an active member of the Contract Claims and Disputes Resolution Committee (CCDRC) for over a decade, and I am delighted to turn the spotlight on this committee for The Procurement Lawyer. The CCDRC focuses on claims brought under the Contract Disputes Act, 41 U.S.C. Ch. 71, and the Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1491, before the US Court of Federal Claims and the Boards of Contract Appeals. Each program year (September to August), the CCDRC holds eight substantive panels on topics of interest to the committee. We usually meet on the second Wednesday of the month, at noon (ET). Through panel discussions, we assess recent developments in published decisions involving claims and disputes, and we review administrative, regulatory, and statutory changes relevant to disputes. We focus on all forms of dispute resolution, discussing topics ranging from negotiation and mediation to Rule 11 submissions without a hearing and full evidentiary trials. We discuss best practices and emerging trends in all of these areas. Members are concentrated in the Washington, DC, area, but our membership stretches across the country. We offer hybrid programs to allow members to participate in person or remotely.

What Are the Benefits of Committee Participation?

I interviewed several active members of the committee for this Spotlight article, and I asked them why they participate in the CCDRC. Each of them answered that they value the diversity of perspectives among CCDRC members and the collegiality of the committee.

Judge Kathleen O’Rourke of the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals (CBCA) has been involved in the committee since 2019. That year, she served as a panelist on our “Ask the Judges” panel and then became involved in leadership. She served as a co-chair from 2020-2023 and now serves as a vice chair. Prior to joining the Board, Judge O’Rourke spent two years as an attorney at the US Department of Commerce and twenty years on active duty with the Air Force. Although she participated in a wide variety of ABA events during her military career and her early civil service career, Judge O’Rourke’s participation on the CCDRC has been the most rewarding. She enjoys connecting with attorneys, experts, and other judges involved in government contracts disputes. She explained that being part of the CCDRC allows her to interact with the government contracts community in a “non-adversarial, professional, intellectual setting.” She appreciates the diverse perspectives of litigators, in-house attorneys, and experts shared at CCDRC meetings and during panel discussions. She noted that litigators are the “tip of the spear”—the first to face new challenges in government contracting and translate those challenges into claims. Interacting with government contracts litigators at CCDRC programs allows her to keep up with emerging trends and avoids the “distanced, ivory tower effect” of being a judge.

Harry Parent is senior corporate counsel, Legal Affairs-Public Sector, T-Mobile for Government. Harry joined the CCDRC around 2015, when he served as trial counsel for the US Army Contract and Fiscal Law Division. He held that position as an active duty Army Judge Advocate. When he transferred into the Army Reserve, Harry took a civilian position as a senior trial attorney in the same division. He started to attend CCDRC programs when Army colleagues invited him to join them. Before attending these programs, Harry had not met contractor counsel outside of litigation. He quickly came to value meeting those counsel in a nonadversarial setting and hearing their views on issues related to government contracts disputes. Harry observed that it is easier to resolve appeals if you know the attorneys on the other side and understand their perspectives. Relationships he developed with other committee members resulted in earlier resolution of disputes—sometimes even before appeals were filed. Even when he could not resolve cases early, developing a “baseline level of trust” with lawyers on the other side “made tough cases go more smoothly” by, for example, minimizing discovery disputes. In 2021, Harry accepted an in-house position with T-Mobile and moved out of the Washington, DC, area. Through all these career transitions, Harry remained actively involved in the committee and served as a co-chair from 2019-2022. Harry appreciated the ability to participate in committee meetings remotely after he moved away from DC. In his current in-house position, Harry spends less time on appeals and finds the CCDRC meetings to be “even more important to keep up on recent decisions and trends.”

Greg Bingham, partner and government contracts lead, Americas, for HKA, explained that as a damages expert and nonattorney, he enjoys networking with attorneys who handle government contract disputes. Greg also appreciates the opportunity to hear the perspectives of judges and government attorneys on government contract disputes as well as the relevant regulations and statutes. He has gained an understanding of the types of disputes that arise in connection with performing government contracts. Greg’s favorite panel discussion is the annual program on the most important government contracts decisions of the past year. He also appreciates hearing about the practical issues involved in litigating cases, like budgetary and scheduling issues. Over the twenty years he has been involved, Greg has developed strong relationships with committee members. Business development is always useful, but Greg values even more the “sense of community” among members of the committee. He encourages colleagues to get involved in ABA committees like the CCDRC.

Like Greg, I joined the CCDRC over fifteen years ago looking for networking opportunities. My law firm at the time, Vinson & Elkins, LLP, paid for my ABA membership, and I decided to join the committee to meet others involved in government contract disputes. I participated in my first annual planning session and volunteered to coordinate and participate in panel discussions. I was soon nominated to be a vice chair, and several years later, a co-chair. Over the years, I came to appreciate the camaraderie of the group, especially among leadership and the other regular attendees. As a firm lawyer, I also valued hearing the perspectives of government attorneys and judges. I left private practice in 2021 and now serve as a Senior Trial Attorney with the Contract Disputes Resolution Center of the Defense Contract Management Agency. As a trial attorney with a Defense agency, continued participation in the CCDRC provides an opportunity for me to maintain and build upon relationships I developed with firm lawyers and experts. These relationships are key to resolving disputes because they foster trust and communication among members of this specialized bar. Members of the CCDRC are “repeat players” in government contracts disputes, and as we develop friendships, we also enhance our ability to understand each other’s perspective and therefore resolve disputes more efficiently.

What Is This Year’s Committee Programming?

We have a great lineup of programs for 2024 with plenty of opportunities to engage.

On January 10, 2024, the CCDRC held one of its most popular annual panel discussions, The Most Important Government Contracts Cases of 2023. Committee co-chair Scott Flesch moderated this panel discussion with Judge Kyle E. Chadwick (CBCA), Susan Warshaw Ebner (partner, Stinson LLP), Judge Daniel S. Herzfeld (ASBCA), Patricia M. McCarthy (DOJ), and Judge Edward H. Meyers (US Court of Federal Claims). The panel discussed various decisions, including ECC International Constructors, LLC v. Army (Fed. Cir. Aug. 2, 2023), and Department of Transportation v. Eagle Peak Rock & Paving, Inc. (Fed. Cir. June 6, 2023), to name two.

On February 20, the CCDRC will hold a panel discussion about government counsel’s perspectives on managing disputes. This is a unique opportunity to hear about how disputes are handled by government counsel. Alexander Canizares of Perkins Coie will moderate a panel of government counsel including counsel from the Department of Justice, agency litigation counsel, and agency “in house” counsel. Topics that will be discussed include the relationship of government counsel with internal clients, the settlement process, and the working relationship between the Defense Contract Management Agency and the Defense Contract Audit Agency. Justin Chiarodo of Blank Rome will host at Blank Rome’s Washington, DC, offices at 1825 Eye Street, NW.

On April 10, the CCDRC will present a panel discussion about alternative dispute resolution, focusing on resolution of both government–prime contractor disputes and prime-subcontractor disputes. We will discuss different forms of ADR, best practices, and recent trends. Teddie Arnold of Seyfarth Shaw will host this meeting at Seyfarth’s Washington, DC, offices at 975 F Street, NW.

Looking further out, the group is planning panel discussions for the rest of the program year:

  • On May 8, Christopher Foux (Director, LitCon Group) will lead a program on damages, providing practitioners with insights and practical advice for proving and defending damages claims under the Contract Disputes Act.
  • On June 12, Dawn Stern (DLA Piper) will moderate our popular annual program “Ask the Judges,” with panelists from the U.S. Court of Federal Claims and the Boards of Contract Appeals.
  • On July 10, Scott Flesch (Miller & Chevalier) will co-lead our program on “Government Contract Claims 101,” which will feature a panel discussion on the government claims and disputes resolution process geared toward junior attorneys, law students, and more experienced attorneys looking for a refresher.

On September 11, 2024, the CCDRC will close out our program year by holding our annual planning meeting. All committee members are welcome and encouraged to participate in our planning session.

I hope you will join some—or all—of the CCDRC’s programs this year and reap the benefits of the diverse perspectives and collegiality we all enjoy.

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Adrianne Goins

Defense Contract Management Agency

Adrianne Goins is the vice chair of the Contract Claims & Disputes Resolution Committee, for which she served as a co-chair from 2019–2022. She is also an associate editor for The Procurement Lawyer. She is a senior trial attorney with the Defense Contract Management Agency.

The views presented in this article are her personal views and do not necessarily represent the views of the Department of Defense or its components.