Western Watersheds Project v. Ellis

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Attorney Fees
  • Date Filed: 10-09-2012
  • Case #: 11-35464
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Schroeder for the Court; Circuit Judge Gould and Senior District Judge Rakoff
  • Full Text Opinion

Denial of attorney fees is not an abuse of discretion if the court considered both the reasonableness of the administrative decision and the reasonableness of the litigation.

This is an appeal from a denial of attorney fees. Western Watersheds Project (WWP) appeals the district courts denial of attorney fees after their claim against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) succeeded. In 2004 WWP challenged BLM's renewal of land grazing permits, claiming a violation of a 1987 Idaho Resource management plan and the court enjoined the grazing until further environmental studies were done. The result was a Settlement Agreement restricting the grazing until 2009. In 2007 there was a catastrophic fire. BLM allowed grazing on the unburned land and WWP brought another claim to enjoin the grazing on the unburned land. WWP succeeded on this claim and sought attorney's fees. The district court denied the attorney fees and WWP claims that the court only considered the reasonableness of the underlying administrative decision and not the reasonableness of the litigation. The Court held the district court did consider both factors and that attorney fees were properly denied. The Court found the district court did not abuse its discretion because BLM had to make new decisions after the fire and did not blatantly disregard the previous court decision.

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