The bill also addresses the growing, and unaccountable, costs to taxpayers of the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA). Simpson is concerned that while EAJA was intended to provide a mechanism for lower and middle income individuals to challenge the actions of an onerous federal government, it has become a slush fund for wealthy extremists in search of taxpayer funding of their unending, and oftentimes frivolous, lawsuits.To which we say, "Bring it."
All these lies about environmental attorneys getting rich on the EAJA fee recovery would be swiftly undercut by the overwhelming evidence that industry attorneys are the real hogs at the trough. The real story is this:
A 2009 income survey by the State Bar of Texas, the most recent available, found that full-time attorneys in private practice earned $120,324 a year. For-profit corporate attorneys earned $156,839 a year. And nonprofit attorneys, like those working for environmental groups, earned $83,000 annually.
"Are these lawyers out to get rich?" said Pat Parenteau, a Vermont Law School professor who specializes in endangered species law and has represented environmental groups and businesses in listing cases. "If they are, they probably should switch."
Parenteau said the focus on attorney fees by lawmakers is "way out of whack." If Fish and Wildlife doesn't have the money to follow the law and meet its deadlines, then Congress should address that, he said. "If you don't want lawsuits, but you want agencies to follow the law, then fund them."Indeed. Fund the agencies and make sure the agencies are in legal compliance. Most of the environmental attorneys we know would be delighted to work themselves out of a job, forcing the agency to self-regulate and be accountable to the myriad species that depend on proper management.
At which point, all us greenies will retire.