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Lawyer’s Arms Broker Worries Are Premature

WASHINGTON (CN) - A law firm's concerns that the government might mistake its activities for arms brokering are premature for a court battle, a federal judge ruled.

The international trade law firm behind the challenge, Matthew A. Goldstein PLLC, took issue with how the U.S. State Department amended the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) in 2013.

Noting that its clients include exporters of military and homeland-security technologies, the firm contended that the regulation's vague definition of "brokering activities" could implicate attorneys who advise exporters.

The law firm also claimed the amendment trampled privilege in requiring law firms to disclose confidential client information and provide law-enforcement agents with open access to their records without any legal process.

Goldstein, the eponymous attorney behind the firm and the lawsuit, noted that the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls waited a year to answer his letter seeking clarification on whether it considered six specific legal services "brokering activities" under the amended regulations.

Seven months after replying over the phone, however, the directorate's compliance chief sent Goldstein a letter that allegedly reneged on the previous guidance.

Goldstein reacted by filing the underlying lawsuit , but U.S. District Judge Ruldoph Contreras notes that this prompted yet another letter from the compliance chief.

With this letter assuring Goldstein that the six services mentioned in the first inquiry did not, in fact, fall under "brokering activities," the Department of State moved to dismiss Goldstein's action for mootness and failure to state a claim.

Contreras did just that with a 29-page opinion Tuesday, calling Goldstein's claims "not yet ripe."

As the firm has expressed only concern that its activities "might" fall within regulation of "brokering activities," Contreras said the injury remains hypothetical.

Though sympathetic to Goldstein's concerns regarding the uncertainty of the "brokering activities" definition, Contreras said the firm can submit a more detailed request for clarification that provides as much information as possible without disclosing its clients' confidential information.

Civil violations of the ITAR under the Arms Export Control Act of 1976 are subject to fines of $500,000 each, and criminal violations are subject to fines of up to $1 million and 20 years in prison per violation.

Goldstein's lawsuit named as defendants the Department of State, Secretary of State John Kerry, the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls, and directorate officials Kenneth Handleman and Daniel Cook.


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