Collins Wants Transparency for EAJA

Congressman Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Congressman Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) introduced H.R. 1033, the Open Book on Equal Access to Justice Act, to the House of Representatives on Tuesday in order to increase accountability from federal agencies.

The Equal Access to Justice Act also referred to as EAJA, was enacted to bring relief to veterans, retirees, small businesses, and other individuals whose limited resources would prevent them from seeking redress against the government. EAJA currently requires federal agencies to reimburse plaintiffs for legal fees incurred through suits in which the agency pursued an unjustified position.

Since 1995, federal agencies have not been required to keep records of those reimbursements or the legal justifications behind them, meaning that the public has no access to how much agencies are paying out and whether the payments are justified.

The Open Book Act would bring transparency to the EAJA process by requiring the Administrative Conference of the United States to maintain an online database that makes EAJA data from every federal agency available to the public and to Congress, which has oversight over government spending.

The legislation has garnered support across the aisle, and in both houses of Congress, with Democrats Collin Peterson of Minn., and Kurt Schrader of Ore., listed as original co-sponsors of the bill.

In the Senate, Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) introduced a companion bill on the same day.