Sen. Murkowski Supports Limits to Legal Fee ReimbursementU.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, has signed on as a cosponsor of legislation to restore to its original purpose a federal law that enables deserving parties who sue the federal government to be reimbursed for attorney's fees.
Today, large and well-funded political activist groups who frequently use environmental laws to stop economic development are able to get taxpayers to reimburse their attorneys fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), a statute originally intended to help parties lacking resources to pursue claims against the government.
The Government Litigation Savings Act (S.1061) introduced in the Senate by Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), would restore accountability and transparency to the EAJA by applying the existing financial cap to wealthy non-profit organizations that pursue their political agenda through the courts.
"This is a commonsense proposal that will defend taxpayers from having their money misused to pay for the political agenda of extreme elements in the environmental community," Murkowski said. "Litigation by these groups aims to limit access for hunting, fishing and recreational opportunities in much of Alaska. And while I recognize their right to sue the government, it was never the intent of Congress to allow wealthy special interest groups to abuse the EAJA and have taxpayers fund their activities."
The Government Litigation Savings Act would apply the current net-worth cap of $7 million to all organizations, including non-profit organizations. Organizations worth more than the cap would not be eligible for reimbursement of their attorney fees. The legislation also returns EAJA to its original intent by instituting targeted reforms on who is eligible to receive EAJA reimbursements, limiting repeated lawsuits and reinstating tracking and reporting requirements to make EAJA more transparent.
The EAJA was passed as a permanent appropriation in 1980 to help individuals, small businesses and non-profit organizations with limited access to financial resources to defend themselves against harmful government actions. When operating correctly, EAJA allows plaintiffs who sue the federal government to recover attorney's fees and costs if they prevail in the case. Congress and the agencies halted tracking and reporting of payments made through EAJA in 1995.
The legislation does not affect the ability of veterans, Social Security claimants, individuals or small businesses to be reimbursed for attorney's fees.
Posted: July 5, 2011
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