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Collord v. Department of the Interior

Citation: 28 ELR 21545
No. 96-36179, 154 F.3d 933/(9th Cir., 08/20/1998)

The court holds that the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) applies to a mining claim contest proceeding concerning the validity of miners' mining and milling site claims in the Payette National Forest. The court first holds that the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 554, governs the mining claim contest proceeding in this case. Hearings necessitated by the U.S. Constitution are included in the scope of hearings that are covered by 5 U.S.C. § 554. The miners' mining and milling site claims are property interests, and the U.S. Constitution requires a hearing before the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) can cancel these claims.

The court next holds that because the mining claim contest proceeding is governed by 5 U.S.C. § 554, the proceeding is an adversary adjudication under the EAJA. The U.S. Supreme Court has explained that the most natural reading of the EAJA's applicability to adjudications under 5 U.S.C. § 554 is that those proceedings must be subject to or governed by § 554. Therefore, the court affirms the district court's remand to the DOI to determine whether the miners' can establish their eligibility for fees under the EAJA.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Jeffrey C. Fereday
Givens, Pursley & Huntley
Park Pl.
277 N. 6th St., Ste. 200, Boise ID 83701
(208) 388-1200

Counsel for Defendants
Jeffrey C. Dobbins
Environment and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 514-2000

Before Reinhardt and Reed, Jr.,* JJ.