Congressman

Cynthia Lummis

Representing Wyoming

Lummis introduces bill to end Equal Access to Justice Act payments to litigious environmental groups.

Government Litigation Savings Act disallows payments to groups making more than $7 million dollars; requires “direct and personal” relationship with the case to qualify for reimbursement.

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Washington, Aug 2, 2013 | Christine D'Amico ((202) 225-2311) | comments
Rep. Cynthia M. Lummis (R-Wyo) and more than a dozen House colleagues introduced the Government Litigation Savings Act today, a bill that limits access to taxpayer funded reimbursements for suing the federal government under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA). The 1980 law was intended to provide individuals, small businesses, and small non-profit groups with financial assistance to sue the federal government, or defend themselves from a suit brought by the federal government. EAJA was intended to help people overcome a one-time challenge: the financial disincentive of seeking judicial redress against the huge federal government. Over time, large, deep-pocketed groups have begun to make heavy use of EAJA reimbursements to fund repeated, procedural lawsuits against the federal government. The Government Litigation Savings Act will protect, and even improve access to reimbursement for individuals like veterans and seniors, while it simultaneously disallows taxpayer funded reimbursements for any group or business with a net worth over $7 million dollars. The bill also ensures that taxpayer funded reimbursements go only to those citizens litigating matters in their own direct and personal interests, such as correcting a financial or medical benefit.
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Rep. Cynthia M. Lummis (R-Wyo) and more than a dozen House colleagues introduced the Government Litigation Savings Act today, a bill that limits access to taxpayer funded reimbursements for suing the federal government under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA).  The 1980 law was intended to provide individuals, small businesses, and small non-profit groups with financial assistance to sue the federal government, or defend themselves from a suit brought by the federal government.  EAJA was intended to help people overcome a one-time challenge: the financial disincentive of seeking judicial redress against the huge federal government.  Over time, large, deep-pocketed groups have begun to make heavy use of EAJA reimbursements to fund repeated, procedural lawsuits against the federal government.  The Government Litigation Savings Act will protect, and even improve access to reimbursement for individuals like veterans and seniors, while it simultaneously disallows taxpayer funded reimbursements for any group or business with a net worth over $7 million dollars.  The bill also ensures that taxpayer funded reimbursements go only to those citizens litigating matters in their own direct and personal interests, such as correcting a financial or medical benefit.

“Yesterday I introduced a bipartisan bill that will bring back transparency to a program that has been without oversight for nearly 18 years.  That is a very important step.”  Lummis said, “However, it is not the only step.  Many independent studies published by Universities like Virginia Tech and Notre Dame, and investigations by the Government Accountability Office and other legal counsels prove that litigious environmental groups use EAJA to fund repeated procedural lawsuits.  Whether those lawsuits result in a $1 dollar or $1 million dollar reimbursement, it is contrary to Congressional intent.  EAJA was written for the little guy to fight a once-in-a-lifetime substantive lawsuit.”

 

Background:

·         The Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) was passed by Congress in 1980, establishing two methods by which individuals or groups could recover the costs of suing, or defending against, the federal government.

·         The first method is through agency proceedings, codified under Title 5, Section 504 of U.S. Code.  It provides payments for adjudicatory proceedings within the agency themselves, as opposed to courts proceedings. 

o   The EAJA required the Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS) to track these payments and report on them to Congress.

o   In 1994, Congress defunded ACUS without transferring the responsibility of tracking EAJA payments to another agency.

·         The second method to recover EAJA fees is through court proceedings, codified in Title 28, Section 2412(d) of U.S. Code.

o   The EAJA directed the Department of Justice to track these payments and report them to Congress.

o   In 1994, The Paperwork Reduction Act eliminated the DOJ’s tracking and reporting responsibility for EAJA payments.

·         EAJA requires that to be eligible for reimbursement of attorney’s fees and costs, individuals must have a net worth under $2 million, and for-profit businesses must have a net worth of under $7 million.  The Government Litigation Savings Act maintains the individual and for-profit net worth cap, and adds non-profit organizations to the groups that cannot exceed the $7 million net worth cap.

·         In March of 2010, U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis (WY-R) and then-Representative Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin (SD-D) introduced H.R. 4717(Open EAJA Act of 2010).  This legislation, along with its mirror legislation in the Senate (S. 3122), would have reinstated tracking and reporting of both Title 5 and Title 28 of EAJA. It also required that the online reporting provide more detailed information on who receives EAJA payments, and to what amount, but left the remaining EAJA law intact.

·         Following a year of study on court documents and IRS filings, Rep. Lummis and U.S. Senator John Barrasso (WY-R) introduced the Government Litigation Savings Act (GLSA).  The GLSA (H.R. 1996, S. 1061) requires comprehensive tracking and reporting of both Title 5 and Title 28 of EAJA, and consolidates the tracking and reporting within the newly reconstituted ACUS, and made changes to EAJA eligibility that instituted a net worth cap, and requires EAJA reimbursement filers to prove they have a “direct and personal” interest in the government’s action.  H.R. 1996 passed the House Judiciary Committee in November of 2011.

·         In July of 2012, Rep. Lummis offered the tracking and reporting section of H.R. 1996 as an amendment to a larger bill on regulatory reform (H.R. 4078).  That amendment passed unanimously in the House.

·         On August 1, 2013, Rep. Lummis and Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) introduced H.R. 2919, the Open Book on Equal Access to Justice Act.  H.R. 2919 builds on the unanimous passage of the tracking and reporting amendment of 2012.  The legislation reinstates tracking and reporting requirements of federal agencies concerning EAJA payments.  The bill also requires an online, searchable database of EAJA payments maintained by the Administrative Conference of the United States.

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