The judge’s refusal to dismiss TechAmerica's lawsuit means the $5 million case will continue.
Two lobbying groups locked in a legal struggle over the move of several public policy executives from one organization to the other seem to have hardened their resolve after a meeting with a federal judge.
At a Feb. 7 status conference with representatives of the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) and TechAmerica, a Superior Court judge in the District of Columbia did not consider ITI's motion to dismiss TechAmerica's lawsuit, which seeks $5 million in damages, a temporary restraining order to prevent the disclosure of its trade secrets, a permanent injunction, punitive damages, attorneys' fees and court costs.
Sources familiar with the case said the judge's move sets the stage for the pretrial discovery phase in which the parties obtain evidence from one another through depositions, document requests and subpoenas.
However, other sources said the judge's pass on the dismissal request was a common procedural occurrence in status conferences and indicative of nothing.
TechAmerica said the court's decision not to consider ITI's motion shows there is some merit to TechAmerica's claims that valuable documents were stolen. Although ITI had returned more than 57,000 pages worth of electronic documents to TechAmerica the week before the meeting, sources said the extent of the alleged theft was deeper than that and the total number of documents could create a stack of paper more than 30 feet tall.
In its suit, TechAmerica said its former senior public procurement lobbyists Trey Hodgkins, Pam Walker and Carol Henton abruptly left for ITI after a targeted, coordinated pilfering of some of TechAmerica's most valuable proprietary documents. Hodgkins, Walker, Henton and former TechAmerica lobbyist Erica McCann formed ITI's IT Alliance for Public Sector. McCann was not named in the suit.
TechAmerica has claimed that Hodgkins sent membership information and other proprietary documents and reports to an online storage site and later changed the password from his home computer to deny TechAmerica access to the information.
ITI's leaders called the claims in TechAmerica's initial filing "nebulous" and asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit.
The organization did not budge from that position after the Feb. 7 meeting. "As it said in its motion to dismiss, which remains pending, ITI continues to believe the lawsuit is without merit," officials said a statement sent via email on Feb. 11. "This lawsuit is nothing more than an unfortunate distraction from advancing the interests of the IT industry and a waste of resources for the member companies."
In a formal statement on Feb. 7, TechAmerica said it was pleased with the outcome, "and although ITI has not returned all of the material they stole, we are pleased that they returned 57,000 pages of stolen documents earlier this week. This combined with today's events clearly shows that the claim has merit."