Judge schedules oral arguments in FirstNet case for March 3
Oral arguments in the lawsuit filed by the Rivada Mercury bidding team protesting evaluations in the FirstNet procurement process will be heard next Friday, March 3, a federal judge ruled today.
U.S. Court of Federal Claims Judge Elaine Kaplan issued the order for oral arguments after conducting a status conference this morning with representatives of the parties in the case. Today’s proceedings were sealed to the public. Most meaningful arguments in the case have been sealed to protect proprietary and sensitive information.
Today’s order also granted parties to the lawsuit the opportunity to reply to the amicus curiae brief—a legal document submitted by entities that are not parties to a lawsuit but have an interest in its outcome—that was filed yesterday by the from the city of Boston and the Bay Area Regional Interoperable Communications System Authority (BayRICS). The amicus brief asks the court to expedite a decision in the case, so deployment of the FirstNet public-safety broadband system can begin as soon as possible.
In the case, Rivada Mercury is protesting its elimination from the “competitive range” stage of the nationwide FirstNet procurement. AT&T’s bidding team is believed to be the only participant selected by the evaluation team to be in the “competitive range” of the FirstNet procurement, according to documents submitted by Rivada Mercury and AT&T.
FirstNet is being represented in the lawsuit by the U.S. Department of Justice. AT&T is an intervenor in the case, in support of the U.S. government.
Rivada Mercury argued in its original complaint that the circumstances in the case deserve extra scrutiny from the court, because AT&T is the only bidder remaining in the “competitive range” of the FirstNet procurement. Rivada Mercury also argued its belief that it could address the evaluation team’s concerns in an oral discussion of its proposal—something that only would happen within the “competitive range” stage of the procurement.
Details of the Rivada Mercury complaint are known only to court participants, because the publicly available version of the complaint—filed on Nov. 30—is redacted to protect proprietary information about the bid. Since then, all substantive written briefs in the case have been sealed to the public.
One legal document in the case noted that U.S. government officials have agreed that the nationwide FirstNet contract would not be awarded before March 1, but that commitment would not have any impact on the court’s decision-making timetable, according to legal sources.
U.S. state and public-safety officials are keenly interested in the outcome of the case. The FirstNet procurement award is the action that would establish the timetable for myriad processes, including the nationwide FirstNet deployment and states’ decisions whether to pursue the “opt-out” alternative.