A Weapon Against Big Government - Equal Access to Justice

A WEAPON AGAINST BIG GOVERNMENT - EQUAL ACCESS TO JUSTICE

scales-of-justice-450203_640   The “Equal Access to Justice Act” (EAJA), it’s one of the very few correctly named laws in America, and a fairly useful one. This act was passed in 1980 and has helped American citizens to hold the government accountable. It may be a good time for our farmers and ranchers to start utilizing it. EAJA “allows individuals, small businesses, and nonprofits to recover attorney fees from the federal government after vindicating a variety of federal rights.” This means that average citizens who cannot generally afford to get in a legal scuffle with the government have the means to do just that. Environmentalist groups have recognized the utility of this and often have used the Act to reimburse their own lawyers and pay for legal fees. This caused some negative rhetoric to be spread about the act, so we ask this question: Is this an irresponsible way to use tax dollars? Fault can be found in the frivolousness of leftist suits, yes, but not in the law itself. EAJA has structures in place to ensure that only litigation with merit is funded, and the legal safeguards and discretion of judges ensures its careful use – meaning if the suit doesn’t have merit, the government doesn’t pay the attorney fees. EAJA has always had bipartisan support and has never been proven to favor one party or the other. This means you can use it too! Farmers and ranchers are not multi-millionaires who can afford to spend enormous sums of money in legal fights with D.C. They are men and women who work hard day in and day out to feed our nation, and often get overrun when it comes to things like the government taking their permitted land or water rights. The list of abuses could go on, but the point will remain the same: there are violations to the fundamental rights of agriculturalists that need to be tried in a court of law, and thanks to the EAJA we have the power to do so. So what are the requirements for the act? First and foremost, you have to need it. For an individual that means your net worth must be below $2,000,000.00 and for a business, partnership, corporation, association, unit of local government, or organization, that means a net worth of $7,000,000.00 or less, and no more than 500 employees (except for “an organization described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986” i.e. a charitable non-profit). Next, you have to be suing any agency and/or any official of the United States acting in his or her official capacity, e.g. the BLM. Finally, you have to win… kinda. It’s understandable; the government doesn’t want to waste taxpayer dollars funding countless futile cases against the state. So, one of the requirements of the Act is that you are part of the “prevailing party.” This means:

“The term “prevailing party” means that party, as plaintiff or defendant, who substantially prevails against the other party. Notwithstanding the foregoing, if a written offer of compromise made by either party is not accepted by the other party within thirty (30) days after receipt and the party not accepting such offer fails to obtain a more favorable judgment.”
In the case Cascadia Wildlands v. Bureau of Land Management, the plaintiff only won 1 of 3 claims. Yet, Cascadia Wildlands had 100% of the court cost and 75% of their attorney fees paid through the EAJA. This means you can still be considered the “prevailing party” even if you lose the majority of your claims. The Act took effect in October of 1981 after being passed the previous year. It aimed to stop the high cost of taking the government to court from deterring those affected by government overreach, and worked for those who realized that it was in place. By putting this law in place, congress was also giving some of the sovereignty stolen by the government back to the people and allowing citizen oversight of government power. It is now vital to our country. Another positive of the Act is that attorneys cannot charge inflated prices just because the government will pay their rates. There is a restriction on how much they can earn per hour ($125), that can be raised or lowered by “special factors” that the court recognizes, like cost of living in the area, etc. In conclusion we would like to invite our readers to consider the possibility of using this Act yourself if needed. With government overreach being publicized in areas like Fish Creek, Nevada, we are sure that some of you are in need of this legal assistance. Don’t be afraid to fight. You have standing and the government is often wrong. The last thing we want to see is more food producers being thrown under the bus by the feds and not having an outlet to make things right. EAJA is your outlet. For more information on the Equal Access to Justice Act, follow these links: https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/28/2412 http://www.eli.org/sites/default/files/docs/43.10985.pdf

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