House Votes to Stop 'Equal Access to Justice' Fees

To screw environmentalists, they also screw grandma and small business

In an overzealous act against environmentalist organizations who successfully sue government agencies, the Republican lead House of Representatives has removed the ability for individuals, small businesses, non-profits and others to collect attorney’s fees when they prevail against the government and can meet other requirements.  By adding an amendment to the Continuing Resolution to fund the government they have effectively gutted the Equal Access to Justice Act….. for everyone.

In essence they have taken away your right to sue the government for things like Social Security payments, improper use of laws and regulations, and not even following their own laws or regulations.

It gives the government cart blanche to conduct their business in any way they want without any public oversight.  This even effects the ranchers who may want to sue the government for changing or revoking their grazing permits.

It leaves only those with deep pockets the ability to sue their own government if it acts arbitrarily.

House Votes to Stop ‘Equal Access to Justice’ Fees.
The Blog of Legal Times





  1. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Since the core of the Republican congressional office-holders represent the multi-national corporations, they will be happy to cut off legal help to small business and individuals under the disguise that it might hurt some of the efforts of conservation groups.

    If only big corporations have the monetary resources to sue the federal government, so much the better.

    1. Daniel Berg Avatar
      Daniel Berg

      They’re trying to add all kinds of different poison to this thing, aren’t they!

  2. Doryfun Avatar

    “Corporatocracy, in social theories that focus on conflicts and opposing interests within society, denotes a system of government that serves the interest of, and may be run by, corporations and involves ties between government and business. Where corporations, conglomerates, and/or government entities with private components, control the direction and governance of a country, including carrying out economic planning notwithstanding the ‘free market’ label.” Period.

    1. Ken Cole Avatar

      I am starting to think we live in an idiocracy. 😉

  3. WM Avatar

    I think it is important to put a face on this important development. If you look at who is pushing this, it is some of our favorite legislators from Western states, ID and WY.

    I will lay odds that the motivation for this largely party division effort to stop this has strong roots with the environmental advocacy organizations who may have been the biggest group to use the provisions of the Equal Access to Justice act to pick off some of the low hanging fruit involving really bad agency decisions on use of federal lands in violation of various federal environmental and natural resoure laws.

    As I understand the proposal in the National Law Journal article, it is packaged as a 6 month moratorium on the provisions of the Act, while the accounting catches up to determine exactly how much money from federal coffers has gone to pay winners in these suits against the government.

    If I recall correctly, on a previous thread or two on this very forum critics of the Act have asserted some pretty big numbers, without an accurate factual basis to do so.

    The real question with a potentially troubling outcome in this political climate, is whether this will become something more than a moratorium over the long term – permanant. And, whether the success of the environmental groups which have long and systematically taken advantage of this law, in allegedly tapping the funds excessively with easy wins, jeopardizes it for all Americans with legitimate beefs agains the government, including those attempting to pursue social security benefits or small business trying to right wrongs committed by big government and/or big corporate business which seems to control America.

    1. WM Avatar

      Sorry: …with OTHER legitimate beefs againsT the government….

    2. WM Avatar

      Here is an editorial piece which specifically calls out the Center for Biological Diversity and includes the transcript of the House introduction of the Amendment by Congresswoman Lummis (R-WY), with some rather interesting dialog from the House floor:

    3. Salle Avatar

      Actually, I see this as a temper-tantrum response to many years of losing lawsuits brought against government entities for abusing the laws in the first place. It’s not that there was low hanging fruit to be taken by large enviro orgs… They don’t go to court for no good reason. It is the government itself abusing or misusing laws aimed at protecting that which belongs to all cotozens and the orgs brought the suit to prevent massive damage or to stop them from going forth illegally to do harm to that which belongs to all of us. If they weren’t there, do you think any of our public lands would be worth what they are now?

      I know that when I take a case to court, for my own personal legal issues, I don’t go there unless I already know that I will most likely win the case… I’ve won every case I ever endeavored to bring before a judge. It’s one philosophy of plaintiffs and I found that it works for me, though I haven’t taken every offense to court.

      This is nothing more than a temper-tantrum approach to work in lockstep with the Koch Bros Inc’s pursuit of absolute control over the powerless… they want us to have even less power to protect our rights provided in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights… shall I point out the Wisconsin situation as yet another example of this?

      I suggest reading “The Shock Doctrine; The Rise of Disaster Capitalism” All of this has happened elsewhere for decades and has now come home to roost in the land where this evil doctrine was invented. It was first put into action in the early 1970s and has been sweeping the world ever since. It’s why South American countries and all those eastern bloc countries who were “liberated” from communist or authoritarian rule never got much further than they have as far as human and personal rights, social development and monetary independence… This is just one of numerous attacks on our freedoms and rights to come, buckle up.

    4. wolf moderate Avatar
      wolf moderate

      Newtons Third Law: “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”.

  4. Virginia Avatar

    Hopefully, this egregious bill will not be enacted by the still-Democratic controlled Senate. So many bills have been introduced – to gut Planned Parenthood, defund the EPA, etc. I am waiting to see what happens when they go to the Senate.

  5. Brian Ertz Avatar

    Ironically, the EAJA, and other citizen-suit fee-recovery provisions are among the most effective means at ‘evening the playing field’ among citizens and other fund-strapped small entities to provide judicial review of unjust/unlawful government decisions. It’s a provision of law that ensures the independent justice of the court is available to all — mitigating the potential that costly legal fees would consistently skew justice in favor of monied interests able to afford justice. Otherwise, if a grievance were to take place – the government could just swamp a plaintiff with legal fees with its army of lawyers and legitimate grievances would be spent out of court.

    it’s a provision of law that holds government accountable to the people – and the dollars spent on EAJA are among the best spent keeping government honest, efficient, and accountable – democratic principles that save tax-payers dollars in the end.

    think about it. the EAJA only pays plaintiffs that succeed – ultimately that means that although one might look at it as groups over-reaching for low-hanging fruit to enrich themselves – or one might view it from the perspective of every dollar spent on EAJA is a cost to our government of its lawless behavior – and rather than cutting off public-interest groups involved in taking advantage of that resource, the federal government might do well to save those dollars by properly administering the law in the first place. it’s a policy decision, and i’d bet that public interest groups that are recovering EAJA fees hemorrhaging from particular agencies would prefer to see policy decisions that brought those agencies in accord with those public interest laws – that stopped the hemorrhaging.

    the program recognizes that those most likely to contest problems/unlawful conduct with government agencies/administration are probably independent parties standing outside of those agencies. it’s the same basic principle that would have a third-party conduct an audit, or an appraisal.

    it’s an investment in good government.

    just like with most other things, these crook tea-party right-wingers are hell-bent on breaking the government – so they can point with ideological vindication at how the government doesn’t work.

  6. Savebears Avatar

    No matter what side of the issues you stand on, this is one of bills that people be very concerned about. It may be targeted at a specific sector, but it will affect every single segment of society….

  7. Nathan Hobbs Avatar
    Nathan Hobbs

    Let the republicans play all the cards so that in 2012 the voter may know the true intentions of the party and vote accordingly.

    We still have rational thinking in the Senate and we still have the presidents veto pen. The more wars the republican party wages against unions, wildlife,women, and any other group you can name the better.

    1. Phil Avatar

      That is true Nathan. As someone mentioned on here a few days ago, “They are digging their own hole they will not be able to get out of.”

  8. Ken Cole Avatar

    The NRA just posted a story about this and I submitted the following comment. We’ll see if it is posted or not.

    Wouldn’t it be more appropriate, and cheaper, for the government to actually follow their own laws and regulations rather than constantly leaving low hanging fruit for these lawyers to pick off?

    The EAJA doesn’t just benefit environmental groups it benefits everyone in society and acts as an equalizer so that not only monied interests can receive justice from the courts.

    I can sue the government and receive EAJA funds only if I’m successful. That says something. It means that I can hold my government accountable if it acts arbitrarily against me or my interests. That would not be possible otherwise.

    So instead of handing over the courts to those with enough money to use them you should be asking your government to quit making illegally biased decisions which only benefit those with money and follow their own laws and regulation.

    Should I expect more from the NRA? Probably not.

  9. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    I guess here will do,

    Day in the Life of Joe Average Conservative:

    Joe gets up at 6:00 am to prepare his morning coffee. He fills his pot full of good clean drinking water because some liberal fought for minimum water quality standards. He takes his daily medication with his first swallow of coffee. His medications are safe to take because some liberal fought to insure they are safe and work as advertised.

    All but $10.00 of his medications are paid for by his employers medical plan because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance, now Joe gets it too. He prepares his morning breakfast, bacon and eggs this day. Joe’s bacon is safe to eat because some liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat packing industry.

    Joe takes his morning shower reaching for his shampoo; His bottle is properly labeled with every ingredient and the amount of its contents because some liberal fought for his right to know what he was putting on his body and how much it contained. Joe dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air he breathes is clean because some tree hugging liberal fought for laws to stop industries from polluting our air.

    Joe walks to the subway station for his government subsidized ride to work; it saves him considerable money in parking and transportation fees. You see, some liberal fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone the opportunity to be a contributor.

    Joe begins his work day; he has a good job with excellent pay, medical benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation days because some liberal union members fought and died for these working standards. Joe’s employer pays these standards because Joe’s employer doesn’t want his employees to call the union. If Joe is hurt on the job or becomes unemployed he’ll get a worker compensation or unemployment check because some liberal didn’t think he should loose his home because of his temporary misfortune.

    It’s noon time, Joe needs to make a bank deposit so he can pay some bills. Joes deposits are federally insured by the FSLIC because some liberal wanted to protect Joes money from unscrupulous bankers who ruined the banking system before the Depression.

    Joe has to pay his Fannie Mae underwritten mortgage and his below market federal student loan because some stupid liberal decided that Joe and the government would be better off if he was educated and earned more money over his life-time.

    Joe is home from work, he plans to visit his father this evening at his farm home in the country. He gets in his car for the drive to dads; his car is among the safest in the world because some liberal fought for car safety standards.

    Joe arrives at his boyhood home. He was the third generation to live in the house financed by Farmers Home Administration because bankers didn’t want to make rural loans. The house didn’t have electricity until some big government liberal stuck his nose where it didn’t belong and demanded rural electrification. (Those rural Republican’s would still be sitting in the dark).

    Joe is happy to see his dad who is now retired. His dad lives on Social Security and his union pension and enjoys the benefits of Medicare and Medicaid because some liberal made sure he could take care of himself so Joe wouldn’t have to. After his visit with dad he gets back in his car for the ride home.

    Joe turns on a radio talk show, the host’s keeps saying that liberals are bad and conservatives are good. (He doesn’t tell Joe that his beloved Republicans have fought against every protection and benefit Joe enjoys throughout his day) Joe agrees, “We don’t need those big government liberals ruining our lives; after all, I’m a self made man who believes everyone should take care of themselves, just like I have”.


    1. WM Avatar

      Jeff E,

      Nicely done!

    2. Doryfun Avatar


      You forgot about Joe going hunting in the wilderness, thanks to the Leopolds, Muirs, and their(good) ilk. Loved your story.

    3. Rita K.Sharpe Avatar
      Rita K.Sharpe

      Yes,Jeff E,nicely done.

    4. IDhiker Avatar

      Right on, Jeff E!

    5. Cody Coyote Avatar
      Cody Coyote

      Great piece, Jeff. I hope it gets republished hither and yon across Red America.

      Speaking of which , I cannot escape the notion that the conservative wing of the current Congress , dripping with tea bags and regurgatative Republican slobber , has adopted what amounts to a Scorched Earth Policy of fiscal austerity.

      I don’t see Wall Street or the Pentagon having any fire drills , however.

    6. Immer Treue Avatar
      Immer Treue

      Good piece Jeff.


Ken Cole is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is the interim Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project.

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