CALHOUN V. MASSIE, 253 U. S. 170 (1920)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Calhoun v. Massie, 253 U.S. 170 (1920)

Calhoun v. Massie

No. 294

Argued March 11, 1920

Decided May 17, 1920

253 U.S. 170


An agreement that the fee of an attorney for successfully prosecuting a claim against the United States shall be a lien upon any warrant that may be issued in payment of the claim is void under Rev.Stats., § 3477. P. 253 U. S. 175.

Section 4 of the Omnibus Claims Act of March 4, 1915, c. 140, 38 Stat. 962, in its limitation of the amount that may be paid to or received by an attorney on account of services rendered or advances made in connection with any claim for which the act made appropriation does not refer merely to the specific funds received from the government, but makes payment or receipt in excess of the limitation unlawful whatever the source. Id.

This broader prohibition is within the power of Congress as applied

Page 253 U. S. 171

to a contract made and substantially performed by the attorney, before Congress and in the Court of Claims, before the act was passed but respecting a claim as to which no right of recovery existed under any act of Congress when the contract was made and which depended for its recognition on the action of Congress in making an appropriation. P. 253 U. S. 175.

In such a case, the attorney's contract being to secure the appropriation, the passage of the appropriation is a condition precedent to his client's liability to him, and, Congress having power to condition such appropriations and having been accustomed so to limit attorney's fees, such a limitation may be taken to have been within the contemplation of the parties, and impliedly assented to by the attorney in making his contract. P. 253 U. S. 176.

Where an attorney for a claimant receives the full amount allowed him out of the specific fund appropriated under an act which limits his fee to that amount, any contract to the contrary notwithstanding, he takes under the act, and cannot repudiate its provisions, and any verbal reservation of his rights under the contract is futile. P. 253 U. S. 177.

123 Va. 673 affirmed.

The case is stated in the opinion.

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