The Equal Access to Justice Act and US Forest Service Land Management: Incentives to Litigate?
The Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) provides for attorneys fees and court costs to be awarded to parties prevailing in litigation against US federal agencies. We examined EAJA awards paid by the US Forest Service from 1999 to 2005, finding more than $6 million awarded to various plaintiffs. Awards were most commonly paid to environmental litigants, although all categories of litigant stakeholders made use of the law. Although it remains uncertain whether EAJA provides an incentive to sue the US Forest Service in any specific instance, because litigation against the US Forest Service generally has a low probability of success, EAJA one-way fee shifting does alter litigation risks among potential plaintiffs. Frequent EAJA claimants often possess considerable financial resources calling into question how the purposes of the law have evolved in the last 20 years.
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