Monday, April 04, 2011

Editorial: Secrecy hides taxpayer dollars used in Big Green lawsuits

For thousands of farming and ranching families with leases and grazing rights on public lands in the West, having a good lawyer on call is more than a routine cost of doing business. It's an absolute necessity to protect a way of life that has often been handed down for generations. But that's far from the worst of it because not only do these hard-working, taxpaying men and women have to pay their own attorneys, they also frequently end up having to help pay the attorneys' fees and other legal costs for Big Green environmental groups that file lawsuits seeking to force the federal government to do their bidding. Usually, the individual ranchers and farmers aren't even defendants, they're just innocent bystanders who need attorneys to protect their interests because their livelihoods depend on the outcome of such litigation. This unjust situation is a result of the Big Green environmental movement's discovery several decades ago that there was indeed "gold in them thar hills," thanks to an obscure federal law known as the Equal Access to Justice Act. Sunday's Examiner editorial detailed how a law intended to help small businesses get their day in court has been perverted into an unaccountable, tax-paid, cash cow worth hundreds of millions of dollars to groups like the Sierra Club, Center for Biodiversity, Environmental Defense Fund and Natural Resources Defense Council. Payments under EAJA are made by the U.S. Treasury to its Judgment Fund, which is funded by a permanent congressional appropriation. The fund is not audited, agencies aren't required to account in their budgets for payments mandated by court decisions in their areas of jurisdiction, and courts often seal settlements to prevent public examination. It's an open invitation for Big Green groups to file suits, knowing that win or lose, most if not all of their legal expenses will be paid by the government. Best of all for them, it's all but impossible to track who gets how much from the taxpayers from these suits...more

No comments: