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When Judge Ricardo Urbina in May ordered the U.S. Army to turn over dozens of documents about its no-bid contract with Halliburton Co. subsidiary KBR to oversee oil-well firefighting in Iraq, the Army balked. Yet instead of filing a motion with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to seek the court’s blessing, lawyers from the Justice Department simply informed the court they were withholding the documents in question. That irked Urbina, who in a Dec. 12 opinion chided Jonathan Zimmerman of the Justice Department. “Just as the court would never expect the Army to seek its guidance in military strategy, the court does not need the guidance of the Army as to the efficacy of its rulings,” Urbina wrote. Urbina ultimately granted a motion from KBR (formerly known as Kellogg Brown & Root) to withhold the documents from disclosure, but he still wasn’t happy with the Justice Department’s handling of the issue. However, he chalked up their errors as a matter of “inexperience or incompetence rather than willful obstruction” and withheld sanctions — this time. But he warned, “The next misstep will invite sanctions.”
Emma Schwartz can be contacted at [email protected].

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