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Environmental Defense Fund v. Watt

ELR Citation: 13 ELR 20001
Nos. No. CV 81-2729, 554 F. Supp. 36/18 ERC 1336/(E.D.N.Y., 10/22/1982)

The court grants plaintiffs' request pursuant to the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) for attorney fees and costs incurred in their action challenging the proposed spraying of insecticides in two national wildlife refuges in New York. Plaintiffs challenged the Fish and Wildlife Service's issuance of permits for insecticide spraying in the refuges, alleging violations of the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act, and settled the case when the permits were terminated.

The court first rules that plaintiffs are prevailing parties within the meaning of the EAJA because they demonstrated that they obtained a beneficial settlement. Plaintiffs established that they achieved or substantially furthered the basic objectives they sought from the lawsuit because defendants agreed to adhere to statutory procedures and guidelines prior to issuance of permits. The court next rules that plaintiffs also are entitled to fees under the EAJA because the "position of the United States" was not "substantially justified." It finds that the remedial purposes of the statute, its legislative history, and the more persuasive case law support an interpretation that the phrase "position of the United States" refers to both its position in the litigation and its stance prior to the lawsuit. Here, the government's decision to settle was justified, but its prior refusal to follow statutory procedures was not. The court also rejects defendants' claim that plaintiffs may not recover for costs incurred prior to the date of passage of the EAJA since the statute clearly waives sovereign immunity for suits pending on the date it became effective. Finally, the court rules that the fees and expenses requested by plaintiffs are reasonable.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Edward Lee Rogers
4801 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Suite 400, Washington DC 20016
(202) 364-0128

Michael J. Bean
Environmental Defense Fund, Inc.
1525 18th St. NW, Washington DC 20036
(202) 833-1484

James T.B. Tripp
Environmental Defense Fund, Inc.
444 Park Ave. S., New York NY 10016
(212) 686-4191

Counsel for Defendants
Ben Wiles, Ass't U.S. Attorney
225 Cadman Plaza E., Brooklyn NY 12201
(212) 330-7106