Law Firm Was Proper Representative of Appellants: Appeal of Lessors of Abchakan Village, Logar Province, Afghanistan, ASBCA No. 61787

32
BearFotos | Shutterstock

Government’s motion to dismiss is denied. The government argued that a law firm representing a group of lessors was not a proper representative. The board disagreed finding the lessors had authorized the firm to represent them. The board further found that while the initial claim submitted behalf of the lessors may have been defective, the lessors had cured the defect by each submitting declarations with proper certification language.

Background

The government entered leases in Afghanistan. Duane Morris, a law firm, submitted a claim on behalf of the lessors for unpaid rent. The claim contained a certification from two of the lessors. The government denied the claim. Duane Morris appealed to the ASBCA. 

The government moved to dismiss, arguing that Duane Morris was not a proper representative of the lessors. The board issued an order to show cause, seeking evidence that Duane Morris had been authorized as a representative, and that the lessors who certified the claim had authority to bind other lessors.

In response to the show cause order, Duane Morris submitted declarations from each lessor. The declarations stated that they certified the claim in good faith and authorized Duane Morris to represent them.

Legal Analysis

  • Duane Morris Was a Proper Representative — Under the board’s rules, an appellant may be represented by an attorney licensed in any state. Here, Duane Morris was licensed. The declaration submitted in response to the show cause order demonstrated that the the lessors had authorized Duame Morris to reprimand them.
  • The Lessors Properly Certified the Claims — An error in the certification of a claim is a correctable defect that does not deprive the board of jurisdiction. Here, the initial claims were arguably defective because only two lessors had signed them on behalf of all the lessors. But the lessors corrected the defect by submitting declarations in which they all certified the claims.
  • Government Did Not Need to Know Amount Owed to Each Lessor — The government argued that the claims were still defective because they did not contain a breakdown of the amount owed to each lessor. The board opined that such a breakdown was unnecessary. Each lease was with a group of lessors jointly. The government’s liability on any lease was to a group, not to any specific lessor.

The appellants are represented by Keith J. Feigenbaum, Charles B. Lewis, and Michael E. Barnacle of Duane Morris LLP. The government is represented by Michael P. Goodman, Cara M. Mroczek and Traci N. Cunningham of the Army Corps of Engineers.

ASBCA - Lessors of Abchakan Village Logar Province Afghanistan