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Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, Inc. v. Watson

ELR Citation: 13 ELR 20443
Nos. No. J81-12 CIV, 19 ERC 1092/(D. Alaska, 02/23/1983) Attorney fees denied

The court rejects plaintiff's request for attorney fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), 28 U.S.C. §2412, in its action under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) to reverse the government's approval of U.S. Borax's (the company's) bulk sampling plan for Misty Fjords National Monument, 12 ELR 20658. The court first rules that plaintiff is not entitled to fees under the common benefit exception established by 28 U.S.C. §2412(b) because the exception is not applicable to benefited classes of this size. Fees must also be denied under 28 U.S.C. §2412(d) because the position of the government was substantially justified. The court finds that the government met its burden of proof by showing that its litigation stance was reasonable given the legal dispute over the statutory interpretation of ANILCA. The court next rules that plaintiff is not entitled to fees from the government or the company under FED. R. CIV. P. 37(c) for their refusal to admit under Rule 36. The United States is no longer shielded from the claim by Rule 37(f), because the EAJA repealed that provision. However, both the government and the company had reasonable grounds to believe they might prevail on the admission issues and thus are not required to pay fees under Rule 37(f)(3). Likewise, the company is not liable for fees under the bad-faith exemption. The court finds that neither the company's activities nor its litigation conduct were made in bad faith.

Counsel are listed at 13 ELR 20233.