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Trustees for Alaska v. Watt

ELR Citation: 13 ELR 20456
Nos. No. A81-264 CIV, 556 F. Supp. 171/19 ERC 1095/(D. Alaska, 02/08/1983) Attorney fees denied

The court denies plaintiffs' request for attorney fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) in a successful challenge to the Secretary of the Interior's transfer of responsibility for managing the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to the United States Geological Survey. Plaintiffs are not entitled to attorney fees based on the common benefit exception to the general rule against an award of fees, extended by the EAJA to suits against the United States. The exception only applies where there is an easily identifiable class of persons to benefit; "the American public," referred to by plainiffs, does not qualify. In addition, while plaintiffs are the prevailing party, they are not entitled to fees under the EAJA because the government's position in the litigation was substantially justified. Because the pertinent sections of neither the National Wildlife Refuge Administration Act nor the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act had been interpreted by a court, the Secretary's interpretation of the new legislation was reasonable.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Eric Smith
Trustees for Alaska
833 Gambell St., Suite B, Anchorage AK 99501
(907) 276-4244

Counsel for Defendants
Cynthia Pickering, Ass't U.S. Attorney
701 C St., Box 9, Anchorage AK 99513
(907) 271-5071