House Passes Collins-Gosar Bill Requiring Tracking & Disclosure of Attorney Fees Paid Out from Environmental Lawsuits

For Immediate Release

Date: November 30, 2015

Contact: Steven D. Smith

Steven.Smith@mail.house.gov

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Congressman Paul A. Gosar, D.D.S. (AZ-04) released the following statement after the House successfully passed H.R. 3279, the Open Book on Equal Access to Justice Act, bipartisan legislation which he introduced with Representatives Doug Collins (R-GA), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Kurt Schrader (D-OR) and Collin Peterson (D-MN) which aims to strengthen the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) by reinstating the tracking and reporting requirements for money paid out by the federal government under this law:

“Unfortunately, a well-intentioned law that was meant to protect the little guy has been hijacked by extremist environmental groups who are profitting off the taxpayer dime. Shamefully, these special-interest lawyers are billing the federal government for exorbitant rates as high as $750 an hour. Shockingly, we don’t even know the true costs of this abuse because the government stopped tracking these expenditures in 1995.

“The bipartisan legislation passed by the House today sheds some much needed light on an appalling process that has operated in the dark for more than 20 years. Special-interest groups shouldn’t be getting rich off American taxpayers by filing frivolous lawsuits. Commonsense necessitates that, at minimum, we should track the sources and recipients of these taxpayer expenditures.”

Background

The Equal Access to Justice Act, originally passed by Congress in 1980, was intended to reimburse veterans, small businesses and other American citizens for attorneys’ fees and costs incurred for suing the federal government.

H.R. 3279 requires important disclosure information relating to the amount of fees and expenses awarded by federal courts when the United States loses a case or settles with a non-federal entity to be published online in a searchable database.

EAJA is funded by a permanent appropriation and as a result Congress does not control the amount of money that that comes from this fund. EAJA claims are awarded from agency budgets as well as the U.S. Treasury. EAJA originally included tracking and reporting requirements but these were removed by Congress in 1995.

Prior to 1995, EAJA payments were approximately $3 million dollars annually. Unfortunately, EAJA has operated in the dark for more than 20 years and payments have skyrocketed. The Government Accountability Office recently confirmed that we don’t even know the totality of these costs as most federal agencies don’t even bother trying to compile this information.

This bipartisan legislation will track how much money is paid out under EAJA, and more importantly, from which agencies.

Endorsements of the bill include: the Congressional Sportsmen Foundation, Boone and Crockett, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the Public Lands Council, the National Association of Conservation Districts, Safari Club International, National Rifle Association, American Motorcycle Association and many others.

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