Today, U.S. Congressman Paul A. Gosar, D.D.S. (AZ-04) released the following statement after joining five other original sponsors in introducing H.R. 3279, the Open Book on Equal Access to Justice Act, which aims to strengthen the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) by reinstating the tracking and reporting requirements for how much money is being paid out by the federal government under this law:
“Given the rampant waste, fraud and abuse that has infected the federal government, increasing transparency of how taxpayer dollars are spent is more important than ever. The intent of the Equal Access to Justice Act was to help the average Joe fight back against an overreaching and oppressive federal government. Unfortunately, this well-intentioned law has been hijacked by environmentalists whose lawyers are billing taxpayers for rates as high as $750 an hour.”
“Environmental groups have abused EAJA and used it as a money-making tool to advance their far left agenda. Our bipartisan bill will restore common sense to this law and crack down on these abuses.”
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.
Original Sponsors of the Open Book on Equal Access to Justice Act are Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN), Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR), Rep. Paul Gosar (R- AZ) and Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN).