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A federal judge has ordered sanctions against a Manhattan attorney for “vexatious” litigation stemming from various lawsuits filed against a software company and the U.S. government in state and federal courts since the early 1990s. U.S. District Judge John E. Sprizzo of the Southern District of New York enjoined software company Pentagen Technologies International from filing any more litigation without permission of the court. The judge, in Pentagen Technologies International v. United States, 98 Civ. 1090 (JES), also directed the firm’s attorney, Joel Z. Robinson, to compensate the defendants, CACI International Inc. (CACI), a software maker, for its attorneys’ fees and costs incurred during the litigation. “Despite repeated dismissals,” the judge wrote, “plaintiffs’ counsel [Robinson] continues to file actions based on the same facts and circumstances previously addressed by this and other courts.” The judge found that the litigation, over trademarks and copyrights of military software, was “intentionally” frivolous and repetitive. J. William Koegel of Steptoe & Johnson in Washington, D.C., who represented CACI, said he could not comment on what his client had spent to defend against the actions. The judge has given CACI 30 days to submit affidavits addressing the amount of sanctions. Robinson said he had “the highest respect” for Judge Sprizzo and would comply with the ruling if it withstood appeal. Robinson said that by his interpretation, the ruling affects future litigation but not current litigation. Several actions against CACI and other defendants are ongoing in courts in the U.S. and England, he said. “I’m very upset that they are upset,” Robinson said of the court. “I’m only doing my job, albeit in a zealous way.” He said that litigation in England involves an allegedly false witness statement filed by the U.S. government regarding the value of his client’s software to the U.S. military. Pentagen’s litigation has appeared before numerous courts since 1993, and has been met by judicial rebukes in the past, according to Judge Sprizzo’s decision. He described the current suit as “the ninth in a long history of litigation.” His ruling is a response to CACI’s motion for instant sanctions. In numerous suits, according to the judge, Pentagen has alleged that it failed to secure a software contract with the U.S. Department of Defense because of the “surreptitious” conduct of CACI in allegedly stealing Pentagen software, known as Mentix. After several suits had been filed against it, CACI filed a suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia seeking declaratory judgment that it had not infringed any of Pentagen’s copyrights or trademarks during its contract work with the U.S. Army. The company won its suit, as well as Pentagen’s appeal to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The appellate court also affirmed the lower court’s order of sanctions against Robinson, who, the court said, had failed to appear at depositions. The appellate court called Pentagen’s motion for the recusal of the district judge “frivolous on its face” and “reprehensible.” NEW PLAINTIFF Pentagen continued to file suits in New York, according to Judge Sprizzo’s ruling, at one point adding a new plaintiff but alleging the same claims as previous suits. Another suit, alleging government infringement on Pentagen’s ownership of Mentix during the Army’s evaluation of the software, was dismissed for failure to state a claim. The basis for CACI’s motion for sanctions was a suit alleging an abuse of process under state law by CACI in previous litigation. The suit alleged that CACI colluded with the United States to obtain a witness statement and sought the advice of the government in preparing its defense. The court found that Pentagen’s claims under the False Claims Act must be dismissed because the United States “never waived sovereign immunity in this area and the FCA does not provide for a private right of action.” The abuse of process claim was dismissed because it was barred by the statute of limitations. In ruling on the motion for sanctions, Judge Sprizzo wrote that Robinson and his client were using the False Claims Act’s procedure “to litigate its original copyright and trademark action and to continue pressing harassing litigation in the face of contrary direction from the courts.” He concluded that the court was compelled to punish Robinson for an “abuse of the judicial process.” James M. Davis of Owen & Davis also represented CACI.

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