Senior Public Relations Manager
Senior Public Relations Manager
Government Contracts Group Of The Year: PillsburyAs mentioned in: Law360
February 2, 2011
Pillsbury was recently named one of Law360's Government Contracts Groups of 2010, based on its client victories in a number of areas concerning government contracts.
"Our practice is highly integrated with the rest of the law firm, so we very readily and effectively draw on the capabilities of lawyers with other practice specialties," said John Jensen, head of the Pillsbury's Government Contracts practice. "We work very closely with the other partners in those different fields so that we can bring the best solution to the clients."
Jensen added that with some government contract attorneys based in California, Pillsbury has a unique coast-to-coast presence that gives it an edge over some of its competitors, which focus mainly on Washington, D.C.
"There are certainly some government contract lawyers out here in L.A., but there aren't very many, and I think it's somewhat unique to have the bicoastal capabilities that we do," said Los Angeles-based partner Alex Tomaszczuk.
In what constituted a significant victory for client Entergy Corp., Tomaszczuk secured approximately $120 million in damages after a few US Court of Federal Claims trials against the US Department of Energy. "The cases are part of a long-running dispute between nuclear energy utilities and the federal government over the collection of nuclear waste," he said.
Per the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, the government was supposed to start picking up nuclear waste in 1998. "The government, however, never showed up to pick up the waste, and will not begin collecting until 2020 at the earliest," Tomaszczuk said. "Over the years, the government has raised a number of defenses — including that it did not have to start collecting the waste by the 1998 date and that the utilities cannot seek damages prior to 1998," Tomaszczuk said.
He added that those defenses have been struck down by the courts.
Entergy and other companies, which had been forced to store the nuclear waste, sued the government for breach of contract. "Although the debt-ridden federal government is often cast as the underdog in litigation with the private sector, the government poured significant resources into its defense in the Entergy cases," Tomaszczuk said.
"The government typically has two or three or four testifying experts, they have a host of other consultants and they have a team of four or five lawyers," he said. "They have been very aggressive in coming up with creative factual defenses to the utilities' claims."
Tomaszczuk also commented on Ken Metcalfe, president of The Kenrich Group LLC, and the damages expert in the case. "He is a very colorful and adept witness," Tomaszczuk said. "Ken does a very good job in assembling what is complicated data and making it understandable for the court and has a long history of working in the nuclear utility business."
Another significant victory was on behalf of Sentel Corp., which resulted in a $25.5 million professional support services contract for the FAA's Safety Management System Office. "It's always nice not just to win, but to win on almost everything you raise," said Jensen, who represented Sentel in the case.
"The ruling shows government contractors that it is important to ensure personnel included in bids are actually available for the job," said Jensen. "Although the ruling came from an FAA body, the lesson is important for contractors working with any agency of the government."
"A contractor cannot turn a blind eye toward the actual likelihood that the people they bid will be available to do the work," Jensen said. "If you knew John wasn't going to be able to work on that contract, you can't have John in your proposal. And it's not enough to think that maybe John will be available. You need to do something and make sure."
Yet another victory was the successful defense of two bid protest on behalf of nonprofit Dismas Charities Inc., which was awarded a contract for halfway house services. "The dispute is unique, Tomaszczuk said, because the halfway house contracts also involved local real estate and zoning law issues."
Tomaszczuk said that crucial to Dismas' case was a helpful letter from the Savannah zoning authorities that was included in the charity's bid to the government. "Dismas also was proactive about notifying the government of the potential problem, and the government actually amended its solicitation to address the local zoning concern," Tomaszczuk said.
Tomaszczuk said he expected more of these bid protests to be filed in the future, especially as overcrowded federal prisons require more halfway houses to help former inmates re-enter society. "The decision is sort of a harbinger of what's going to come," he said. "It highlights a somewhat unique interplay between federal and local real estate zoning laws."
Coming off a strong year in 2010, Jensen said, the government contracts group is not necessarily looking to expand in 2011, though the firm is always open to adding key talent if there is a good fit.
This year, Jensen said, he expects a lot of government contract work to involve issues of transparency and integrity.
"Those are themes which have resonated for two years during [President Barack Obama's] administration," he said. "And with the budget problems that Congress is recognizing here in Washington, I think there will be an increased emphasis on ensuring that government contracting is done with the utmost integrity."