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United States ex rel Yannacopolous v. General Dynamics

October 17, 2006

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, EX REL. DIMITRI YANNACOPOLOUS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
GENERAL DYNAMICS AND LOCKHEED MARTIN CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Morton Denlow

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff-Relator Dimitri Yannacopolous ("Yannacopolous" or "Relator") brings this qui tam action on behalf of the United States of America ("the government") against Defendants Lockheed Martin Corporation ("Lockheed") and General Dynamics ("Dynamics") (collectively "Defendants") alleging violations of the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. § 3729 et seq. Relator's Second Amended Complaint alleges that Defendants submitted false claims to the government in connection with the sale of F-16 aircraft to the government of Greece.

Lockheed now brings a motion to unseal the court file in this case. Lockheed has particular interest in obtaining 11 sealed motions in which the government requests extensions of time to determine whether to intervene in the case ("extension requests"). Relator objects only to unsealing certain portions of the 11 extension requests, claiming that doing so would harm the government by revealing substantive details of the government's investigation. The government has also represented to the court its objection to unsealing these portions of the extension requests. The parties agree that the remainder of the court file may be unsealed. After conducting an in camera review of the disputed portions of the 11 documents, this Court grants Lockheed's motion to unseal the file.

I. BACKGROUND

A. LOCKHEED'S PREVIOUS MOTIONS TO COMPEL

On June 1, 2006, this Court issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order ("6/1/06 Opinion") ruling on Lockheed's first motion to compel. See United States ex rel. Yannacopolous v. General Dynamics, 235 F.R.D. 661 (N.D. Ill. 2006). At issue in that motion were written disclosures served upon the government pursuant to 31 U.S.C. § 3730(b)(2), which requires Relator to disclose to the government substantially all material evidence and information in his possession, that referred or related to Relator's allegations regarding Internal Electronic Countermeasures Integration and/or Reverse False Claims. Id. at 662-63. Relator claimed that the documents were not served upon the government pursuant to § 3730(b)(2), but instead were provided to the government as privileged communications. Id. at 663. Relator prepared a privilege log and submitted the documents, with proposed redactions of the allegedly protected material, to the Court for in camera review. Id.

After in camera review, this Court found that the fifteen documents at issue did not constitute § 3730(b)(2) disclosure statements to the government and thus the FCA did not require Relator to disclose the documents to Lockheed. Id. at 668. Moreover, the Court found that much of the correspondence at issue was opinion work product, which would not be discoverable even if the documents were § 3730(b)(2) disclosure statements. Id. Because Lockheed failed to establish (1) substantial need for the materials and (2) undue hardship in procuring the requested information some other way, this Court found that Lockheed could not overcome the opinion work product protection. Id. Thus, this Court denied Lockheed's motion to compel production of the documents. Id.

On October 7, 2005, this Court issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order ("10/7/05 Opinion") ruling on Lockheed's second motion to compel. See United States ex rel. Yannacopolous v. General Dynamics, 231 F.R.D. 378 (N.D. Ill. 2005). At issue in that motion were three disclosure statements Relator had served on the government pursuant to § 3730(b)(2). Id. at 380-81. Relator had produced the three disclosure statements to Lockheed, but Relator redacted what he considered opinion work product. Id. Relator also produced in unredacted form all of the exhibits referenced in the disclosure statements. Id. at 381.

Lockheed moved to compelRelator to produce unredacted copies of the three disclosure statements. Id. at 380. The attorney work product doctrine controlled the resolution of the dispute, and the parties agreed that ordinary work product should be produced and opinion work product redacted. See id. at 382.Thus, Relator provided the Court with both redacted and unredacted copies of the disclosure statements so the Court could determine if the portions redacted by Relator constituted opinion work product. Id. at 381, 384.After an in camera review, the Court found that most of Relator's redactions did indeed constitute opinion work product, and need not be produced.

B. DOCUMENTS AT ISSUE IN THIS MOTION TO UNSEAL THE COURT FILE

On June 13, 2006, Lockheed filed a motion to unseal the court file in this case. Relator's complaints in this case were under seal for over seven years. While Relator's complaint and two amended complaints have been unsealed, approximately 70 other documents remain under seal in this case. Among these sealed documents are 11 unopposed motions filed by the government for an enlargement of time to make an election as to whether to intervene in the case, made pursuant to § 3730(b)(3) of the FCA. The motions (Docket Numbers 4, 9, 11, 25, 27, 29, 31, 33, 35, 37 and 39) were filed between February 1997 and March 2002. In its motion, Lockheed expressed particular interest in these 11 extension requests. Lockheed Mot. at 4. Lockheed believes that the extension requests may be helpful in establishing a statute of limitations defense. Id.

Relator and the government object to unsealing portions of these 11 extension requests. Relator claims that unsealing the documents would reveal substantive details of the government's investigation into Relator's claims. Relator Mot. at 1-2. Relator contends that the extension requests, as required by statute, include showings of "good cause" for its requests and thus provide substantive details about the course of the government's investigation. Id. Relator provided the Court with these documents, along with proposed redactions, for an in camera review.

II. LEGAL ...


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