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Metropolitan Wash. Coalition for Clean Air v. District of Columbia

Citation: 11 ELR 20171
No. Nos. 78-1298, -1299, 639 F.2d 802/16 ERC 1430/(D.C. Cir., 01/21/1981) Rev'g denial of attorneys fees

The District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals reverses the district court's denial of appellants' request for attorney fees under § 307 of the Clean Air Act. In 1973, appellants brought suit to compel the closure of an incinerator owned by the District of Columbia because of alleged violations of the District's state implementation plan. The suit was ultimately dismissed on mootness grounds. In denying appellants' request for fees, the district court found that although the litigation had influenced the District to close the incinerator, it had not been determinative. Further, the suit was found not to have been in the public interest since the incinerator was found not to threaten the public health. The court of appeals rules that these are inappropriate bases for denying fees under the Act, particularly since the incinerator had been declared not to threaten public health several years after the litigation had commenced. In order to achieve Congress' intent to encourage citizen suits to supplement governmental enforcement efforts, attorney fees must be awarded whenever the underlying suit represents a prudent and desirable effort to achieve an unfulfilled objective of the Act. The case is therefore remanded for application of the proper standards.

Counsel for Appellants
Philip W. Amram, Gilbert Hahn Jr., Leonard J. Bucki
Amram & Hahn
11th Floor, 1150 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington DC 20036
(202) 783-3344

Counsel for Appellees
John C. Salyer, Richard G. Wise, Ass't Corp. Counsel; Louis P. Robbins, Acting Corp. Counsel
1350 E St. NW, Washington DC 20004
(202) 727-6240

Before TAMM and ROBINSON, Circuit Judges, and GESELL, District Judge.*

District Judge Gesell dissents.