Equal Access to Justice Act
The Judgment Fund and the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) were enacted to reimburse attorneys’ fees to people who prevail in court against the federal government. However, the fund is not subject to appropriations by Congress, and there is no transparency regarding the costs, recipient of money, and outcome of each claim.
Because of this lack of oversight, some special-interest groups sue the federal government in order to put in place legislation that harms ranchers and producers. By challenging the federal government in court, the groups are able to circumvent Congressional authority and challenge decisions by the federal land management agencies because court judgments become binding authority. If they win the case, they are awarded attorney’s fees and other court costs.
Often times, ranchers pay attorney’s fees and other legal fees out of their own pockets in an attempt to defend the federal government and protect their livelihoods, which is the opposite result of the Judgment Fund and EAJA’s intent.
By the Numbers
- $500-750/per hour: The amount of attorney’s fees awarded to special interest groups, according to 2013 research by Wyoming attorney Karen Budd-Falen.
- 3,300: Number of lawsuits filed by just 12 special interest groups from 2001-2011.
- $37 million: Estimated amount of EAJA funds awarded to special interest groups from 2001-2011.
- $2 million: Estimated amount of tracked fee requests awarded to just two special interest groups from 2011-present.