A federal judge has ruled against D.C. solo practitioner Mark Zaid in his pursuit of $466,000 from the government on a claim that Congress unlawfully interfered with a private contract he had with two clients and restricted his compensation.
Zaid and his lawyer, Eric Imperial, pursued a Fifth Amendment takings claim in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims against the government, alleging that a private relief bill that Congress passed restricted the attorney fees Zaid was entitled to collect. The bill awarded $2 million to Zaid’s clients and capped his fee at 10 percent.
Judge Thomas Wheeler earlier this month issued an opinion that said Zaid failed to state a claim. Wheeler granted the government’s motion to dismiss. Robert Chandler of the Justice Department’s commercial litigation branch argued the motion.
In December, Imperial argued Congress was not authorized to change the terms of Zaid’s contract with Eugene and Barbara Makuch, undercover FBI agents who infiltrated the American Communist Party and other organizations. The Makuches reportedly agreed to pay Zaid one-third of any award they received. Zaid’s complaint alleged the federal government unlawfully took from him more than $466,000.
At issue in the case is whether Zaid had a property interest before Congress passed the private relief bill. Chandler argued in court that Zaid never had a property interest. The government and the public did not benefit from the legislation, Chandler said.
Wheeler ruled that “while private bills may have interfered with an agreement between Mr. Zaid and Makuches, it was within Congress’ discretion to enact the bills with fee restrictions without the use of eminent domain power.” Wheeler wrote that fee restrictions in private relief bills are supported by established legislative practice and Supreme Court precedent. Zaid was not immediately available for comment.