02:00 PM

Lummis, Barrasso introduce bill to limit citizens’ ability to sue the federal government

Legislation would restrict provisions that ensure equal access to justice

WASHINGTON (05/25/2011) -

Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) and Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) jointly introduced legislation today to gut the Equal Access to Justice Act. The bill, dubbed the Government Litigation Savings Act, would make it harder for private citizens, small businesses and nonprofit organizations to file suit against the federal government by limiting their rights to recoup attorney’s fees after winning a lawsuit in which the government’s position was not substantially justified.

The following is a statement from Mike Senatore, vice president of conservation law for Defenders of Wildlife:

“The Equal Access to Justice Act, which was signed into law by President Reagan, helps provide a level playing field regardless of politics or ideology so that all Americans can ask courts to ensure that their government is accountable and that it obeys laws that protect people, property, and our environment. The Supreme Court unanimously recognized that the ‘specific purpose of the EAJA is to eliminate for the average person the financial disincentive to challenge unreasonable governmental actions.’

”The Lummis-Barrasso bill is a clear attempt to silence those citizens, small businesses and nonprofit organizations that don’t have the financial resources to take action on their own. And by specifically targeting environmental groups, the members of Congress who support this bill have shown their complete disregard for protecting America’s wildlife heritage and natural resources for future generations.

“Litigation is time-consuming and typically a last resort. When we take legal action against the federal government, we do so in the public interest with the full backing of hundreds of thousands of Americans who support the cause. Furthermore, we only recover those costs when we prevail in court, meaning a judge agrees that the law has been violated. Without the ability to recover those costs, the American people would lose their ability to challenge the federal government when it violates the law and fails to fulfill its duties, guaranteeing that only the wealthiest corporations and special interest groups will have access to justice.”


Read the text of the Government Litigation Savings Act

Read more about Defenders important victories in court


John Motsinger, 202-772-0288