This season, ACUS is considering revisions to the model rules for implementing the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA).
In 1980, President Jimmy Carter signed EAJA, which authorized the award of attorneys’ fees and other expenses to parties who prevail against the federal government in certain administrative and judicial proceedings. The purpose of this legislation was to, among other things, “diminish the deterrent effect of seeking review of, or defending against, governmental action by providing” the award of certain costs and fees against the United States.
ACUS has played a role in the administration of EAJA since its promulgation. The Act requires that agencies issue EAJA rules “[a]fter consultation with the Chairman of the Administrative Conference of the United States.”
To carry out this statutory charge, ACUS’s Chairman issued the first model rules for the implementation of EAJA in 1981. The Office of the Chairman revised the model rules in 1986 following the amendment and reauthorization of EAJA.
The model rules applied exclusively to the award of fees and other expenses in the context of agency adjudications and addressed matters such as eligibility, allowable fees and expenses, information required of applicants, procedures for considering applications, and agency and judicial review of award decisions. These rules did not address EAJA awards in the context of litigation conducted in federal courts.
In light of changes in law and practice since 1986, the Conference convened an Ad Hoc Committee, which met on April 10 and April 30 to discuss proposed revisions to the model rules. Should the Ad Hoc Committee vote to approve these revised model rules and the Council place them on the plenary session agenda, the full Assembly will discuss and vote on the revised model rules at the 71st Plenary Session in June. If the model rules are approved, ACUS staff will work with agencies to implement them.