“It was really designed to change the way the federal criminal justice system worked,” said Mr. Cassell, who is a law professor at the University of Utah.
In addition to asking that the court force the Justice Department to share evidence against Boeing and remove a provision granting it immunity from further criminal prosecution, the families also asked it to require that Boeing appear for a public arraignment and refer the agency’s failings in the case to House and Senate oversight committees.
In the motion, the families also noted that just months after the deferred prosecution agreement was announced one government lawyer involved in negotiating it left the Justice Department for Kirkland & Ellis, the law firm that represented Boeing in the case. The families said that they were not accusing the lawyer of specific wrongdoing, but rather calling attention to a revolving door that “provides a potential motive” for the government to have failed in its responsibility to the families.
The lawyer, Erin Nealy Cox, was one of three people quoted in the Justice Department’s Jan. 7 announcement and one of only a handful of government lawyers whose names were on the settlement itself. Kirkland announced last summer that Ms. Cox would join its government, regulatory and internal investigations group, which is led by the lawyer who signed the deferred prosecution agreement on Boeing’s behalf.
Ms. Cox did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The federal government has faced widespread criticism for its handling of the Max crisis. The Federal Aviation Administration has acknowledged failings in how it oversaw the plane’s development and certification. Senator Maria Cantwell, the Democrat from Washington State who is chairwoman of the Senate commerce, science, and transportation committee, issued a report this week detailing what she called “a troubling erosion of safety oversight” and asking the F.A.A. to investigate a number of whistle-blower allegations.
And some lawmakers have criticized the Justice Department for not being aggressive enough in pursuing cases against the company and its executives. In October, a federal grand jury indicted a former top Boeing pilot, but no other high-level executives have been charged with wrongdoing.
In November, a group of current and former Boeing executives agreed to settle a shareholder lawsuit over the crashes. That month, the company also separately agreed to broadly take responsibility for the crashes in a deal with most of the families of the 157 people killed in the crash in Ethiopia, paving the way for the families to sue the company for compensatory damages. The families agreed not to seek punitive damages from Boeing, which they were unlikely to have won.