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Citizens for Better Forestry v. Department of Agric.

ELR Citation: 39 ELR 20122
Nos. No. 07-16077, (9th Cir., 06/09/2009) attorneys fees denied

The Ninth Circuit held that an environmental group is not entitled to attorneys fees in their action challenging a USDA regulation that the agency withdrew while the case was pending. The group alleged that the USDA violated NEPA, the ESA, and the National Forest Management Act (NFMA) in promulgating a rule governing the U.S. Forest Service's administration and management of National Forest System lands. After the group filed suit, the USDA announced it would withdraw the rule and issue a new one in its place. The group then stayed its substantive NFMA claim but moved for summary judgment on its NEPA and ESA procedural claims. A district court denied their motion on ripeness and standing grounds, but the Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded the case to the district court to determine whether injunctive relief was appropriate. Soon after, the USDA withdrew the rule and replaced it with a new one. The group then sought attorneys fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA). It argued that it should be considered a prevailing party because the Ninth Circuit ruled that the USDA violated its' procedural rights under NEPA. The group, however, never received a formal declaratory judgment or other relief from the courts. Because the group received no relief from any court, it does not qualify as a prevailing party under the EAJA.

[A prior decision in this litigation can be found at 33 ELR 20263.]