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Ninth Circuit Categorically Rejects Western Watershed Project’s Petition for Attorney Fees In a Permit Renewal Challenge

October 18, 2010

On October 9, 2010, the Ninth Circuit categorically denied a petition by the Western Watershed Project (WWP) for attorney fees in a case where it challenged a grazing permit renewal.  The court held that the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) does not allow a party to recover attorney fees in a proceeding involving a grazing permit renewal.  Plaintiffs often seek to recover attorney fees under EAJA in environmental cases involving public lands management.  The Ninth Circuit understood that the WWP was seeking to enforce environmental laws, but found that the law and legislative history on this issue were clear.  Even though the WWP was not seeking a permit renewal itself, the EAJA precludes any party from recovering its fees when litigation originates in a permit renewal.  This decision is likely to influence the WWP’s future approach to litigating permit renewals.


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