Oracle's in-house counsel has been denied access to sealed information in its legal battle over the Pentagon's $10bn cloud contract after a judge sided with AWS in what will be one of many smaller battles in the case.
Big Red is suing the US Department of Defense over its decision to hand the mega-cloud contract, Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI), to a single vendor.
At the end of 2018, the firm filed an application with the US Court of Federal Claims, seeking to add its in-house litigant Peggy Bruggman, who has been with the firm 15 years, to the list of people with access to information held under a protective order.
AWS – a crucial competitor in the battle for the contract – is also an intervenor in the case after Oracle used the lawsuit to allege conflicts of interest between AWS and Pentagon staff.
It issued a series of objections to the application, saying the request to grant a member of the firm's staff access to confidential documents about the deal was "unusual and unnecessary".
AWS expressed concern that an Oracle staffer will gain access to government procurement files and potentially to competitor proposals in an ongoing process.
It added that Bruggman did not represent Oracle during its failed bid protest to the Government Accountability Office, and questioned why she should be added to the team now.
Although the government itself didn't object to access – merely asking for "heightened security measures" for Bruggman's access – judge Eric Bruggink sided with AWS, agreeing that Oracle had no "persuasive reason" for access.
Oracle had argued that it needed its in-house counsel to be given access – which has been granted to five external attorneys – to give it "increased confidence in the approach taken in this litigation".
But judge said Oracle had not provided "any real explanation as to what unique contribution Ms Bruggman will bring to the analysis".
According to Bruggink's order (PDF), both Oracle and AWS acknowledged that the firms "operate in an intensely competitive environment on an ongoing basis" and that harm from inadvertent disclosure was "real and material".
Oracle tried to counter this by setting out the ways in which Bruggman was distant from procurement at the firm – but the judge said this "also militate[s] against the need for her involvement at this stage".
Moreover, the judge noted that Bruggman reports to staff involved in competitive decision-making and may be asked to give procurement-related advice – which could increase the risk of inadvertent disclosure.
"Given the highly sensitive nature of the material, the early stage of the procurement, and the dollars involved, plaintiff has not made a sufficient showing of need to overcome the risks of inadvertent disclosure," Bruggink said, adding that "the hazards flowing from an inadvertent disclosure are an unwarranted risk". ®