Jenner & Block

Firm Wins Appellate Victory for MorphoTrust USA in Bid Protest

Jenner & Block won a victory for client MorphoTrust USA, the United States’ leading producer of drivers licenses and IDs, in an appeal before the DC Court of Appeals involving a bid protest over a contract to produce drivers licenses for issuance by the District of Columbia’s Department of Motor Vehicles.  MorphoTrust had filed a protest with the Contract Appeals Board, stating that a number of the specifications in the DMV’s RFP were extremely restrictive and deterred competition.  The Board denied the protest and the DC Superior Court affirmed the Board’s decision.  MorphoTrust then appealedto the DC Court of Appeals, arguing “that the Board improperly deferred to the judgments of the DMV regarding the challenged specifications, failed to resolve important disputed facts, and made findings that were unsupported by the record.” 

In its decision on May 28, 2015, the DC Court of Appeals reversed the order of the DC Superior Court and vacated the Board’s decision.  This is a significant step toward allowing MorphoTrust to compete for the DC drivers license contract, as well as opening competition to additional bidders that would benefit the District.  The decision is also important because the DC Court of Appeals overturned more than 30 years of Board precedent where the Board had improperly regularly deferred to agency judgments.  Instead, adopting wholesale the arguments urged in the firm’s briefs, the Court reaffirmed that the Board’s function is to independently review agency decisions “searchingly” and not to “defer to them broadly.”  The Court did so over a dissent from one panel member who would have adopted a more deferential standard of review.

MorphoTrust USA is represented by Partners Jessica Ring Amunson, Daniel E. Chudd and Damien C. Specht and Associates Charles L. Capito, III and Rachael Plymale.