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Simpson Seeks Reform of Taxpayer Lawsuit Subsidies

Idaho Congressman cosponsors legislation reforming the Equal Access to Justice Act

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Washington, May 25, 2011 | comments
Idaho Congressman cosponsors legislation reforming the Equal Access to Justice Act
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Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson today acted to protect taxpayers by requiring new transparency in a federal program that pays people to sue the federal government. Simpson did so by signing on as an original cosponsor to the Government Litigation Savings Act, authored by Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), which reforms the federal Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) and shines a spotlight on abuses of the program, which are particularly prevalent with regards to land management agencies. Simpson is the Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and the Environment.

 

“For too long, the Equal Access to Justice Act, and its millions of dollars in yearly federal payouts, has operated without review by Congress and without regard for taxpayers, allowing litigation to become a cottage industry,” said Congressman Mike Simpson. “The Government Litigation Savings Act is a prudent, responsible step in the right direction toward a more accountable and less costly judicial access program for those with limited means. It is well past time for this program to see fundamental reforms, and I am pleased a bill like this is now before Congress.”

 

Among its many provisions, the Government Litigation Savings Act:

  • Requires that EAJA filers must show a “direct and personal monetary interest” in the action to be eligible for payments.  Direct and personal interest includes personal injury, property damage, or unpaid agency disbursement.
  • Establishes a cap of $175 per hour for attorney’s fees, pegged to inflation.
  • Caps total EAJA reimbursements to $200,000 for any single action, and allows no more than three EAJA awards in a calendar year.
  • Establishes reporting requirements government-wide, including  an explanation from the agency explaining why its position was not substantially justified, and establishes an online, searchable database for funds paid out of EAJA and to whom the funds were paid. 
  • Requires that funds paid from EAJA in sealed settlement agreements must be included in the online report.

 

In addition, the legislation requires the Government Accountability Office to conduct an audit of EAJA payments over the last 15 years.

 

“The EAJA program was originally intended to help people with limited resources seek redress against the wrongs of the federal government, and nobody disagrees with that intent,” said Simpson. “Unfortunately, it has turned into a program that uses taxpayer dollars to subsidize the litigious addictions of special interest groups. American taxpayers, businesses, farmers, and ranchers, as well as our nation’s court system, are ill-served by EAJA in its current form and that is why this legislation is so important."

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