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Taking on the Feds
Our client Englewood Terrace LP owned and operated a 302-unit apartment building in one of the poorest areas on Chicago's south side. The building was subsidized under a four-year contract with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development worth over $11 million. In 2001, however, HUD terminated the contract and the owner's subsequent attempts to obtain a court injunction and administrative review failed.
We were hired in 2003 to try to get a different and better result. To do so, we filed a new suit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, DC, the court with jurisdiction over contract claims against the United States government. Represented by attorney from the Department of Justice, HUD first attempted to get our complaint dismissed on various statutory grounds. The court denied HUD's motion and its motion to reconsider that denial. HUD then moved for summary judgment. But, after initial briefing and a hearing with the court, HUD was forced to drop its motion and the case was set for trial.
We tried the case in a federal courtroom in Chicago (Court of Federal Claims judges conduct trials outside Washington when most of the witnesses are located elsewhere) in January and February 2007. All of Englewood's evidence was received without objection. We subjected HUD's witnesses to thorough cross-examination, with the result that HUD truncated much of its defense case. After extensive post-trial briefs, the Court of Claims issued a detailed decision finding that HUD has breached its contract with Englewood and that it was liable for damages to Englewood in an amount that could exceed $8million.
Taking on the government is a daunting exercise, like climbing a mountain-in a snow storm. Aided by our client's willingness to persist in what we knew would be a difficult venture, we won a major victory for a public-spirited property owner against a government department that considered its judgments to be law and thought it could outlast and overpower us. We proved otherwise.