Late last week, the House of Representatives passed a budget amendment that has serious ramifications for access to justice in America.
The Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) provides some reimbursement for court costs incurred when individuals, small businesses, or certain non-profits successfully use the courts to hold the government accountable for an illegal action. As of 2009, most of those reimbursed by EAJA have been involved in Social Security and Veterans Affairs cases.
Now, the House of Representatives, led by Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) has voted to stop repaying those legal fees.
EAJA only applies to individuals and groups that are successful in their cases against the government, and who fall below a certain net-worth ceiling. Without EAJA, many of those people would have no hope of affording the sometimes lengthy and always expensive court battles to get justice.
Alliance for Justice lobbied for the Equal Access to Justice Act when it was proposed. EAJA was first a short-term experimental provision, which was later made permanent through a bill sponsored by Senators Grassley (R-IA), Domenici (R-NM), and De Concini (D-AZ).