On Tuesday, June 19, 2012, U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings (Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee) held a hearing entitled "Taxpayer Funded Litigation: Benefitting Lawyers and Harming Species, Jobs and Schools." The hearing was a successor to the Committee's December hearing entitled "The Endangered Species Act: How Litigation is Costing Jobs and Impeding True Recovery Efforts." The objective of both hearings was to garner information on the drain (financial and labor) of ESA litigation on the resources of the federal agencies, especially the Fish & Wildlife Service.
Prior to the hearing, Rep. Hastings requested information from the Department of Justice (DOJ) relative to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) cases handled by DOJ since 2009, their status, and the amount of attorneys fees or court costs paid. DOJ's letter response and associated back-up materials of May 8, 2012, are attached here. Rep. Hastings continues to request information from DOJ or the federal agencies and seems to be concentrating on 4 major cases, including the Florida Key deer litigation in which more than $1.9 million was paid to plaintiffs' counsel.
To put this into perspective, between March 2001 and September 2010, the U.S. Government reportedly paid more than $21 million in attorneys fees and costs in ESA litigation or settlements. These amounts are typically paid from the Treasury Department's Judgment Fund as opposed to the particular wildlife agency's budget.