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Defenders of Wildlife v. Administrator

Citation: 19 ELR 20611
No. No. 4-86-687, 700 F. Supp. 1028/(D. Minn., 09/06/1988) Attorneys fees awarded

The court holds that plaintiffs are entitled to attorneys fees under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in their challenge to the registration of strychnine under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). On the merits, the court had held that the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) registration of strychnine for certain above-ground uses violated the Administrative Procedure Act, the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA), and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), in addition to the ESA. The court initially holds that it should not reserve ruling on the attorneys fees petition until the defendants' appeal is concluded, since an award of fees is collateral to the main action. The court then holds that plaintiffs are entitled to fees under the ESA even though there were multiple claims brought under several federal statutes. The two central allegations in the complaint — that EPA reversed a decision to ban strychnine without scientific support or adequate explanation and that continued registration would harm protected species — directly support the fundamental purpose of the ESA to protect endangered species. Moreover, the factual, procedural, and legal bases of plaintiffs' BGEPA and MBTA claims were closely related to the ESA claims. The court holds, however, that some of plaintiffs' efforts were not related to the successful claims that furthered ESA policies, and thus reduces the fee request by 15 percent. The court notes that plaintiffs would also be entitled to fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act. The court declines to enhance the lodestar. The difficulty of the case, the risk of nonpayment presented by the contingency fee arrangement plaintiffs had with their attorneys, and the small number of attorneys available for this type of litigation are built into the normal billing rate and do not warrant enhancement. The court holds that the fee claim for work done by law clerks and paralegals is reasonable, given the complexity of the issues and the breadth of the administrative record.

[The decision on the merits appears at 18 ELR 20960.]

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Brian B. O'Neill
Faegre & Benson
2300 Multifoods Tower, 33 S. Sixth St., Minneapolis MN 55402-3694
(612) 371-5300

Counsel for Defendants
Charles S. Shockey
Land and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-3426