Published: October 08, 2019
Mark S. Zaid attended Albany Law School from 1989 to 1993. Mark S. Zaid attended Albany Law School from 1989 to 1993. Photo: The Washington Post/The Washington Post/Getty Images Photo: The Washington Post/The Washington Post/Getty Images Image 1 of / 3 Caption Close Whistleblowers' attorney went to Albany Law School 1 / 3 Back to Gallery
ALBANY — The prominent Washington attorney representing the whistleblower whose complaint now threatens the future of President Donald J. Trump is a comic-book aficionado whose clients include the family of John Wilkes Booth and a retired Secret Service agent once accused of firing the shot that killed President John F. Kennedy.
Mark S. Zaid is also a 1992 graduate of Albany Law School who recently served on the school's Board of Trustees.
Zaid revealed Sunday that he represents a second whistleblower who he said has more direct knowledge of the Trump administration's efforts to push Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the son of former Vice President Joe Biden and a discredited theory that Ukraine played a role in the origins of the Mueller investigation.
He did not respond to an interview request Monday.
Zaid, a Long Island native who received his bachelor's degree from the University of Rochester, worked during law school as a speechwriter for Albany Mayor Thomas Whalen. He also was a coordinator of a sister-city program, and volunteered as a firefighter and emergency medical technician with the Shaker Road Fire Department in Loudonville.
After passing the bar, Zaid represented more than 50 relatives of the victims of Pan Am Flight 103, which was blown up over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988. A number of those killing in the bombing had ties to the Capital Region; Zaid said he lost two college classmates in the explosion.
In 1993, he became the first attorney to sue Libya, whose government under despot Muammar Gaddafi was identified as the ultimate culprit in the disaster. In 2003, Libya agreed to set up a $2.7 billion fund for families who lost loved ones in the crash.
"The seeds for that case grew out of my time at Albany Law School, where I did a paper on suing terrorists and put on two conferences regarding terrorism," the Long Island native said in a 2008 Times Union story.
Zaid is a noted scholar on the Kennedy assassination. While at the law school, he marked the anniversary of the Nov. 22, 1963, killing with a speech that explored the legal defenses that might have been employed by Lee Harvey Oswald, had he survived being shot by Jack Ruby days after Kennedy's murder.
His interest in JFK's assassination continued into his legal career. In 1996, Zaid represented George W. Hickey, a former Secret Service agent, in a libel suit against St. Martin's Press, the publisher of "Mortal Error: The Shot That Killed JFK." Bonar Menninger's book claimed Hickey, who was on the president's detail that day in Dallas, slipped and accidentally pulled the trigger of his high-powered AR-15 rifle.
"We're trying to stop this now while Hickey's still alive," Zaid told the Baltimore Sun after the suit was filed. "He doesn't want his grandchildren growing up and hearing other children say, 'Hey, your grandfather killed the president of the United States.' "
The initial suit was dismissed but refiled after the book was released in paperback. Hickey ultimately accepted a settlement from St. Martin's.
In 1994, Zaid represented 22 descendants of Booth in a case involving a court petition to exhume the body of the man who shot Abraham Lincoln in Ford's Theater on April 14, 1865. Booth was buried in Baltimore's Greenmount Cemetery, but the family members wanted to test a conspiracy theory that Booth escaped and someone else was shot 12 days after the assassination by Union troops.
An appeals court rejected the effort. "Certainly, the Booth family and indeed all students of history should be very disappointed with this ruling,″ Zaid said at the time.
In more recent years, Zaid has represented current and former federal employees, intelligence officers and "whistleblowers and others who have grievances or have been wronged by agencies of the United States government or foreign governments, as well as members of the media," according to his firm's website.
Here's Zaid discussing his work in a "MEL Talk" posted by the University of Rochester:
The New York Times and other outlets have reported that the first whistleblower in the Ukraine matter is a CIA officer assigned to the White House.
The whistleblowers are not his first clients to take on Trump. In 2017, Zaid represented several Washington-area restaurateurs who said they face unfair competition from the Trump International Hotel because influential visitors were flocking there to curry favor with the administration. A federal judge dismissed the suit.
Zaid has maintained ties to Albany Law School, where he served as associate editor of the Law Review. In 2008, he returned to the school to deliver a presentation entitled "David vs. Goliath: Challenging the United States Government's Shield of Misconduct with the Sword of Litigation."
"I don't defend people who are being prosecuted for spying against the United States, but people who spy for the United States and get into trouble, maybe as a whistle-blower," Zaid said in an interview posted on the school's website to preview his talk.
His service on the school's Board of Trustees ran from 2014 to 2018.
Zaid currently teaches continuing legal education classes for the Washington bar on "Defending Security Clearances" and "The Basics of Filing and Litigating Freedom of Information/Privacy Act Requests."
His love of comic books led Zaid to curate a 2012 exhibit at Yale University's Lillian Goldman Law Library called "Superheroes in Court! Lawyers, Law and Comic Books." His LinkedIn page identifies him as the president of Esquire Comics, specializing in "high-grade or rare investment quality comic books (and related items) from 1930-1963."
The lawyer appears happy to lean into his pop culture enthusiasms. His firm's website notes that the National Law Journal in a 2001 profile described him with a reference to David Duchovny's conspiracy-theory-obsessed FBI agent, Fox Mulder, from the hit TV series "The X-Files."
"If Agent Mulder ever needed a lawyer," it said, "Zaid would be his man." source