Legislation introduced to prevent abuse of the Equal Access to Justice Act

by Jeff on June 8, 2011

On May 25, U.S. Representative Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Vice Chairman of the Congressional Western Caucus, and U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), Chairman of the Senate Western Caucus, jointly introduced H.R. 1996 / S. 1061, the “Government Litigation Savings Act.”

This legislation prevents abuse of the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) by large environmental groups and others who frequently challenge the federal government in court. These bills will return EAJA to its original intent by instituting targeted reforms on who is eligible to receive EAJA reimbursements, limit repeated lawsuits, and reinstate tracking and reporting requirements to make EAJA more transparent.

The lack of transparency and oversight has led to the EAJA program being abused by environmental groups using taxpayer funds to file lawsuits. These lawsuits ultimately lead to restricting responsible motorized access to public lands.

“When the government stopped tracking EAJA payments in 1995, it was a dream come true for radical environmental groups. Lack of oversight has fueled the fire for these groups to grind the work of land management and other federal agencies to a halt — and it does so on the taxpayer’s dime. Americans have unwittingly funded these obstructionist political agendas for far too long at the expense of individuals, small businesses, energy producers, farmers and ranchers who must pay out of their own pocket to defend the federal government against relentless litigation,” Lummis said. “This common sense legislation would help restore integrity to EAJA and return the program to the original intent of Congress.”

“For far too long, special interest groups have funded their anti-multiple use agenda with Americans’ hard earned taxpayer dollars,” said Barrasso. “It’s absolutely absurd that Washington pays outside groups to repeatedly sue our government. It’s time to halt the endless cycle of reckless lawsuits and fix this broken system. Our bill will protect taxpayer dollars and restore accountability and transparency.”

According to a press release issued by Rep. Lummis, “EAJA was passed as a permanent appropriation in 1980 in order to help individuals, small businesses and non-profit organizations with limited access to financial resources defend themselves against harmful government actions. EAJA allows for the reimbursement of attorney’s fees and costs associated with suing the federal government. When operating correctly, EAJA allows plaintiffs who sue the federal government to recover part of their attorney’s fees and costs if they “prevail” in the case.”

This legislation is long overdue and the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) and the All-Terrain Vehicle Association (ATVA) thank Rep. Lummis and Sen. Barrasso for introducing it. For years, anti-access groups have used EAJA and other tactics to inappropriately keep responsible riders off public land that is well suited for responsible motorized recreation.

The AMA and ATVA need you to contact your Representative and Senators now to urge them to become a cosponsor to H.R. 1996/S. 1061, the “Government Litigation Savings Act.” Just follow the “Take Action” option to send a pre-written e-mail directly to your federal lawmakers.

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