On Dec, 12, 2013, the Capital Press reported that the Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA) was awarded $305,000 for legal fees from a lawsuit they brought against the Bureau of Land Management and lost.
ONDA’s recovery of legal fees was legally executed under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA). A clearer picture could not have been painted to expose the flaws within EAJA, nor a more perfect opportunity to rally the troops for passing of the Government Litigation Savings Act.
Enacted in 1980, EAJA’s intent was to level the litigation playing field for private citizens, small businesses and nonprofits seeking to challenge the federal government and its vast resources. EAJA allows a “prevailing” plaintiff to recover legal fees from the federal government, whether they win or lose the lawsuit.
EAJA only applies to private citizens and businesses with a net worth of $7 million or less. Nonprofits, however, see none of these restrictions, thus opening the floodgates to potential abuse of EAJA by special interest groups worth over $50 million.
A Wyoming law firm reported in 2011 that 14 environmental groups had initiated over 1,200 of these cases. They collected over $37 million in taxpayer dollars. However, the government has not tracked EAJA funds awarded since 1995.
The abuse of this system is too frequent and must be stopped. Last August the Government Litigation Savings Act — which would place equal eligibility on citizens, businesses and nonprofits — was reintroduced into Congress as U.S. House Resolution 3037 and has since been assigned to committee. It is imperative that our agricultural community show support for this resolution. Please contact your congressmen and encourage them to support U.S. HR 3037.
Oregon Cattleman’s Association