Abram J. Pafford Partner

Save current page as PDF

Abe focuses his practice on protecting the rights and interests of companies and individuals who face disputes or conflicts with the federal government in its role as purchaser, prosecutor, and chief regulator. For more than twenty years, Abe has represented government contractors, participants in regulated industries, and companies and individuals targeted for federal investigation or prosecution, consistently achieving successful results for clients confronting difficult odds.

The U.S. federal government is the world’s largest purchaser of goods and services, and Abe represents government contractors across the full spectrum of government contract matters. As a member of the firm’s nationally recognized Government Investigations & White Collar Litigation department, Abe prosecutes claims under the Contract Disputes Act, defends against False Claims Act lawsuits initiated by the Department of Justice and qui tam whistleblowers, and represents protestors and intervenors in pre-award and post-award bid protests before the U.S. Court of Federal Claims and the GAO. Abe also has substantial experience in leading sensitive and discrete internal investigations, defending companies facing potential exclusion from federal or state contracting pursuant to agency debarment proceedings, and advising clients and litigating disputes concerning the status of contractors and subcontractors under the Small Business Administration’s size and affiliation regulations.

Abe’s work on federal procurement matters reflects a broader government-facing practice in which clients rely on him to protect their interests when confronting novel or unusual regulatory challenges, high-stakes agency enforcement actions, and aggressive government investigations. The federal government’s regulatory reach and prosecutorial resources allow it to exert overwhelming pressure against companies and individuals. Abe thrives as a zealous advocate for clients in such situations, devising creative approaches in regulatory disputes involving legal issues of first impression, and mounting a vigorous defense under the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”) against expansive or arbitrary exercises of agency power. Abe’s administrative litigation experience spans a wide range of sectors and federal agencies, with a track record of achieving positive outcomes for clients in the defense, financial services, real estate, energy, and healthcare industries, in disputes and enforcement proceedings involving agencies such as the SEC, FTC, Department of Labor (“DOL”), and Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”).

In the realm of state and federal criminal investigations and prosecutions, Abe offers clients the unique dual perspective of having substantial defense experience across the full spectrum of both white-collar and street crime offenses, from wire fraud and criminal antitrust violations to narcotics conspiracies and capital murder. Abe has also successfully represented witnesses, subjects, and targets in federal grand jury investigations, including high-profile cases brought by the DOJ’s Public Integrity Section. Much of Abe’s federal administrative and criminal defense experience is concentrated in the appellate courts. An experienced appellate advocate, he has briefed or argued more than two dozen cases against prosecutors and regulators in various state and federal courts of appeal, often securing victories for clients facing devastating outcomes after suffering losses in the trial courts.

Abe has been an attorney at three other large law firms, including two in the AmLaw 100. He also managed his own litigation boutique based in Virginia and Washington, DC. In addition, he served as a law clerk to Judge Eric G. Bruggink of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims and to Judge D. Brooks Smith of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.


Government Contracts

  • Represented joint venture of two leading aerospace companies in successfully defending Air Force “Other Transactions Authority” (OTA) award of rocket development contract, defeating competitor’s APA challenge to one of the largest dollar-value OTA awards ever made.
  • Brought successful GAO bid protest against ground rules that improperly excluded IT services provider from competing for eight-figure defense-related software development contract.
  • Lead counsel for IT services provider in successfully pursuing Contract Disputes Act claim against U.S. Secret Service relating to performance costs associated with disputed interpretation of complex overlapping cybersecurity requirements.
  • Lead counsel in longest-running pre-award bid protest ever filed at the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, successfully forcing cancellation of General Services Administration leasing solicitation while preserving client’s status as incumbent lessor to DC criminal justice agencies after nearly two years of pre-award litigation.
  • Represented leading energy savings performance contractor in securing favorable summary judgment ruling on novel issue in federal prime-sub litigation involving interplay between express contractual warranties and implied warranties under the Spearin doctrine.
  • Persuaded DOJ to decline intervention and obtained favorable settlement for GSA schedule contractor in False Claims Act qui tam suit alleging improper sales to federal agency customers in violation of the Trade Agreements Act.

Regulatory and Administrative Disputes

  • Regulatory counsel representing fintech lender in parallel investigative and regulatory proceedings initiated by SBA and DOJ in relation to novel issues arising during wind-down of client’s multi-billion dollar Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) loan portfolio.
  • Lead counsel in series of successful administrative appeals representing applicants and borrowers seeking to overturn adverse eligibility and forgiveness determinations relating to pandemic relief programs such as the PPP and the Shuttered Venue Operator grant.
  • Filed and successfully settled first-of-its kind APA lawsuit in which commercial real estate developer challenged GSA’s deviation from federal lease prospectus approved by Congressional committees under 40 U.S.C. § 3307.
  • Lead counsel for national medical cannabis enterprise in connection with administrative, trial, and appellate litigation relating to issuance of retail medical marijuana dispensary licenses in Washington, DC.
  • Lead regulatory counsel for various healthcare enterprises in administrative disputes concerning scope and enforceability of Certificate of Need requirements governing creation, expansion, or acquisition of healthcare services and facilities.
  • Retained by defendants as lead counsel for ongoing post-trial and appellate proceedings arising from largest Fair Labor Standards Act worker classification dispute ever litigated to judgment by DOL in Virginia’s federal courts.

Appellate Litigation

  • Culley v. Marshall, No. 22-585 (United States Supreme Court, argument pending for October Term 2023) (counsel of record for amici American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Cato Institute, and Rutherford Institute, arguing that due process requires prompt post-seizure hearing allowing owner to challenge government’s retention of property pending final forfeiture adjudication on the merits)
  • Su v. Medical Staffing of America, LLC, 2023 WL 3735221 (4th Cir. 2023) (argued) (on interlocutory appeal, vacating District Court’s FLSA injunction for failure to comply with mandatory specificity and particularity requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 65(d))
  • Conrad v. District of Columbia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, 287 A.3d 635 (D.C. 2023) (reversing ABC Board and reinstating challenge of neighborhood advisory commission to renewal of license for liquor store implicated in potential regulatory and safety violations)
  • Castillo v. United States, 952 F.3d 1311 (Fed. Cir. 2020) (reversing trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the government, and reinstating claims of Miami property owners seeking just compensation pursuant to the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause)
  • Sabal Trail Transmission, LLC v. 18.27 Acres of Land in Levy County, 824 Fed. Appx. 621 (11th Cir. 2020) (affirming compensatory judgment in favor of Florida property developers following exercise of eminent domain pursuant to the Natural Gas Act of 1938)
  • United States v. Jones, 858 F.3d 221 (4th Cir. 2017) (argued) (interlocutory appeal reversing District Court and ordering dismissal of federal narcotics conspiracy charge on Double Jeopardy grounds)
  • Holmes v. United States, No. 15-CO-0974 (D.C. 2017) (reversing trial court’s dismissal of habeas petition, and reinstating defendant’s challenge to murder conviction based upon potential violation of defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel)
  • Jones v. United States, No. 16-CO-0682 (D.C. 2017) (vacating narcotics distribution conviction after government confessed error and admitted seizure of evidence without probable cause in violation of defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights)
  • Mayhand v. United States, 127 A.3d 1198 (D.C. 2015) (argued) (reversing conviction for obstruction of justice where trial court misapplied excited utterance exception and admitted recording of 911 call that should have been excluded as inadmissible hearsay)
  • Hawkins v. United States, 119 A.3d 687 (D.C. 2015) (argued) (reversing conviction for obstruction of justice where evidence was insufficient to support trial court’s finding of criminal intent)
  • Williams v. United States, 113 A.3d 554 (D.C. 2015) (argued) (vacating conviction and dismissing robbery charge after finding insufficient evidence to support required element of the offense)
  • Bunch v. United States, 117 A.3d 583 (D.C. 2015) (argued) (obtaining significant reduction in sentence for client based on appellate finding that trial court erred in failing to merge multiple counts for purposes of sentencing)
  • Maye v. State, 49 So.3d 1124 (Miss. 2010) (argued) (in direct appeal of high-profile Mississippi capital murder case, obtained reversal of capital murder conviction where trial court failed to instruct jury on defendant’s right to defend his infant child during late-night police raid involving officers wearing dark clothing lacking visible police insignia; on remand client pled to a lesser charge and was immediately released from custody with time served)