Under existing Equal Access To Justice law, special interest groups can recover legal fees when successful in challenging decisions of federal land management agencies. This often amounts to hundreds of thousands of dollars per case. If they lose the case, they have no responsibility to reimburse the government for its costs. The intent of this resolution is to level the playing field, making parties that lose their legal challenges responsible for reimbursing the government for its legal fees.
WHEREAS, under the current terms of the Equal Access To Justice statute, special interest groups can recover legal fees and court costs when successful in challenging decisions of federal land management agencies in court, and
WHEREAS, claims for such fees typically amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars per case, totaling millions of dollars per year, and
WHEREAS, these reimbursements are paid from the land management agencies’operating budgets, taking millions of dollars away from projects intended to improve forest health and productivity, and
WHEREAS, in the event the plaintiffs lose their claims against the agency and the court rules in favor of the government, the losing plaintiff has no responsibility to reimburse the government for its legal expenses, and
WHEREAS, the current application of this law provides a perverse incentive for special interest groups to sue the government for the purpose of obstructing forest management plans and to raise huge amounts of money in the process, with absolutely no financial consequences in the instances when they lose the court challenge.
THEREFORE, LET IT BE RESOLVED, that the Oregon Logging Conference go on record in support of amending the Equal Access To Justice law to hold parties choosing to sue the government accountable for legal fees incurred by land management agencies when the suing plaintiff loses the court case, and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that by amending the Equal Access To Justice law in this manner, plaintiffs challenging land management agencies’ decisions in court, will be held to the same accountability standards as the defendants, win or lose.