Thanks to Bob Zybach for this..
Here’s a link to the entire letter.
The original purpose of the Equal Access to Justice Act (“EAJA”) was to protect
individuals and small businesses from an overzealous application of law by
federal agencies. According to testimony offered by members of the
House of Representatives in support of EAJA, the purpose of the bill was to
“equal the playing field” when American citizens had to file litigation against the
federal government. For example, Congresswoman Chisholm (D-NY)
testified that the bill encouraged an “affirmative action approach” to bring in
those who had been “locked out of the decision making process by virtue of
their income, their race, their economic scale or their educational limitations.”
Representative Joseph McDade R-PA stated that the bill would help to
improve citizen’s perceptions of his relationships with the federal
government because it would require federal agencies to justify their actions
and to compensate the individual or small business owner when the
government is wrong. The intent of EAJA was to curb unreasonable and
excessive bureaucratic application of regulations. If that is the case, why does
the federal government pay a significantly greater amount per hour to
an attorney who is representing a bug than to one who is representing a
I have heard a lot of excitement about the recent FOX news story
Environmental groups collecting millions from federal agencies they sue,
studies show, as well as the Press Release from Congresswoman Lummis
and Senator Barrasso describing Two New Studies Identify Major Flaws in the
Equal Access to Justice Act: To support the nation’s veterans, seniors and small
business, Lummis and Barrasso call for swift passage of Government Litigation
Savings Act. These numbers support that premise. Call your Congressmen
and Senators. It is time to show our veterans and seniors that they are more
important to the federal government and the to tax paying citizens than bugs.
13 thoughts on “Veterans, Seniors and Bugs”
The bottom line here is that lawyers working for the indigent elderly or for vets are paid about $170+/hr. by US taxpayers, while those working for the Center for Biological Diversity and other litigious “nonprofit” organizations are paid nearly three times as much ($490+/hr.) as people who actually need (and deserve) our assistance.
The “sue the government and save a bug or a crawdad via statistics” is a gravy train that needs to be stopped. Mr. Rogers might say “boondoggle.”
It’s a scam, and the numbers show it. What they don’t show is all the human misery, broken communities, ruined forests, and dead wildlife that have accumulated because of these opportunistic methods of making money adopted by the environmental industry. Those costs are in the tens of billions — tears and dollars both.
Mr. Suckling? Matthew? “Ed?”
Bob, Where can I document your claim RE: $170/hour vs $490/hour? Thanks.
Matt: The claim is made by Budd-Falen Law Offices. Karen Budd-Falen has been a leading player in the effort to restore EAJA funding to its intended purposes, rather than continue being milked dry by the environmental industry.
Budd-Falen and Kieran Suckling both testified at a recent Congressional hearing in DC:
The theme of the hearing was: “The Endangered Species Act: How Litigation is Costing Jobs and Impeding True Recovery Efforts” and was well represented by the Wild Earth Guardians and the Pacific Legal Foundation, in addition to Suckling and CBD.
Bob, I’m still looking to document your claim RE: $170/hour vs $490/hour?
Can you show me exactly where the Budd-Falen Law Offices made this claim? I’m not looking for some hearing schedule. I’m looking for actual proof that, as you have claimed here, the EAJA fee is $170/hour for vet issues but $490/hour for “non-profits.” Thanks.
David: Use the link Sharon posted. The numbers are very clear. It’s not up to me to document claims made by lawyers in other States. If we’re playing semantics again, it’s been a long day and I’m not up to it. You might also want to follow the other link to Karen Budd-Falen’s Congressional testimony, where you can watch a video.
Here’s some information from the homepage of the letter’s authors:
I wonder if their rates are the same for senior citizen veterans as they are for the oil and gas industry? They probably don’t represent bugs.
I know an environmental attorney in a small office and I happen to know that SHE WORKS PART-TIME AS A JANITOR. So, I decided to investigate the claims in this post as it seemed excessively one-sided (does anyone actually know a “rich” environmental attorney that doesn’t work for a large energy or mining business?).
I read all of the transcripts from the hearing:
Karen Budd-Fallen never mentions an hourly rate for either enviro attorneys or other types of attorneys who sue successfully, and neither do any of those who spoke at this particular hearing. [The best neutral transcript is provided by the law professor.]
However, Suckling of the Center for Biological Diversity does show a breakdown of ACTUAL litigation and EAJA fees/costs retained (his non-profit’s tax data is part of his testimony-see his truth in testimony form).
Recouped fees/costs amounted to less than 10% of his organizations revenue in the past 10 years, and averaged 4.3% during this period. Based on an annual average revenue of say $8,000,000 based on 2011 tax data, this would amount to retained fees/costs of approximately $350,000 per year. At $170/hour that would amount to approximately 2025 billed hours, equivalent to working 40 hours a week for 50 weeks a year.
The claim of $490/hour, on average, seems wildly inaccurate, given that the CBD has a number of attorneys.
It would seem that Budd-Fallen or others are cherry picking a few cases with high pay-outs to bolster their claims of improper enviro attorney fees and their own interests, and those who are “anti-environmentalist” are just jumping on anything they hear that “supports” their opinions.
Hi Craig: I am aware of an entire firm of successful environmental lawyers that grew out of the local university more than 30 years ago and hire their own janitors. Lots of USFS and BLM suits, but no mining or energy stuff that I know of — but I expect they handle that kind of stuff, too: http://www.westernlaw.org/about-us
I am unaware of the information that Budd-Falen used to derive these numbers, and it probably is a good idea to ask where they came from. I have, however, looked over her extensive data regarding EAJA awards and legal fees paid by the USFS and BLM on these types of things, and it all seemed meticulously documented. These current numbers certainly are outrageous enough to demand further accountability. That being said, I will write her and ask and share my findings with readers of this blog.
I am also familiar with a number of statements and statistics generated by Mr. Suckling in the past, and don’t have too much faith in them. I doubt their attorneys do any janitor work, though, to make ends meet.
Well, as I wrote to Craig about 30 days ago, I did write the Budd-Falen Law Firm, asking the source of the numbers. Here’s what just came in today:
Sorry it took some time to respond to you.
I did this research through WESTLAW NEXT. For the ESA cases, I used the search of Endangered Species Act Litigation for all federal courts and narrowed the search with the terms attorney hourly fees. I them took the top 15 cases and averaged the hourly fee.
I did the same research questions for cases against the Department of Veterans Affairs and again the same search question for social security benefits. I didn’t cherry pick – just took the top 15 cases that gave the hourly fee paid and averaged them out.
I hope this answers your question.
Karen Budd Falen
I checked out that “succesful” group you mentioned. Let’s see, 20 attorneys, lets assume full-time. Annual revenue for 2010 (per Guidestar.org) of $2,000,000. Do a little math and you get $100,00 per attorney, only if you assume the implausible likelihood that the organization has no other expenses. At most I’d call these folks upper-middle class. While you may not have much faith in the non-profits, at least we can check their tax records. I bet business attorneys are earning lots more, and thus have more to “protect”.
Also, interesting comment found in that hearing’s records: more ESA suits are caused by businesses than environmentalists.
Looks like we balance each other out, I’m skeptical of profit-makers (wonder how much those “for-profit legal business make annually?), and you’re skeptical of their poorer cousins.
Between the two of us I bet we can find the real truth.
Thanks, Craig: I think you might be right, but I’m guessing it might take more than the two of us. And — speaking as a long-time busheler in the woods — it depends on how many hours a day they’re putting in. Who makes the most, and who has to do the janitor work? Personally, I’d be more than happy to take in a $100,000 a year for doing something I liked to do — especially if I only had to do it a few hours a week.
These EAJA-reform efforts are just thinly veiled attacks on environmental interests. Saving endangered species, whether orangutans or crawdads, is one of the most important and honorable human endeavors in planet earth, and it remains vastly under-appreciated and under-funded.
I support full transparency, with a required itemized listing of all refunds requested. Some kinds of costs should not be accepted, especially if the activity wasn’t part of the case. (Example: A lawyer-commissioned study sampling tree cambium and fire mortality that didn’t support the plaintiff’s position)
Also, some kinds of lawsuits already have “templates” set up, reducing the time and effort to file. Only actual hours should be billed to the lawsuit. The CBD is known to have used form letters, with the wrong project names filled in, when they mass produce their lawsuits. I’m sure they have gotten better since then but, they should only be able to recoup REAL costs, documented in detail..
That being said, maybe we will end up with a simple lump sum for winning plaintiffs. I think I would support that, too.