Wilderness Society v. Babbitt
5 F.3d 383 (9th Cir. 1993)

  • The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) was allowing grazing in the Hart Mountain Wildlife Refuge even though there was evidence that the grazing was harming wild animals in the Refuge.
    • FWS had been considering a management plan for how to use the Refuge's resources for a while, but hadn't come up with a complete plan. In the meanwhile they kept renewing grazing permits.
      • They had not even written an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)
  • Environmental groups (led by the Wilderness Society) sued for an injunction.
    • Wilderness Society argued that FWS was required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other Statutes to write an EIS and develop a management plan.
  • The FWS and Wilderness Society settled the case.
    • As part of the settlement, FWS agreed to prepare an EIS and a compatibility determination, and to refrain from issuing any grazing permits until thirty days after the adoption of a management plan.
  • Wilderness Society asked for attorney's fees. The Trial Court denied the motion. Wilderness Society appealed.
    • The Trial Court found that the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) (28 U.S.C. 2412(d)(1)(A)) provides that a court shall award attorneys' fees to a "prevailing party" in a civil action brought against the United States "unless the court finds that the position of the United States was substantially justified or that special circumstances make the award unjust."
      • FWS argued that even though they were non-compliant with NEPA they had been working towards compliance, so they were substantially justified.
  • The Appellate Court reversed and awarded attorney's fees.
    • The Appellate Court found that Wilderness Society was the prevailing party.
    • The Court found that FWS's actions were not substantially justified.
      • The Court found that there was an affirmative duty to go out and determine if the refuge was being managed properly.