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$72,000 in Attorney Fees and Costs Awarded in Montana FOIA Action

On May 14, 2008, U.S. District Court Judge Donald W. Molloy awarded $72,701.99 in attorneys’ fees and costs in an action under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Wildlands CPR sued the U.S. Forest Service under FOIA for records related to the Forest Service’s travel management program. After a year of pretrial litigation, the parties settled the matter. Following settlement, Wildlands moved for attorneys’ fees and costs.

Relying on the Open Government Act of 2007, Wildlands argued that it had “substantially prevailed” in the case based on the settlement it obtained. The Forest Service contended that the Open Government Action did not apply to the case because it became law 18 months after Wildlands filed suit. The Act makes it easier to obtain attorneys fees and costs in FOIA actions.

The court sided with Wildlands. The Open Government Act applies retroactively to pending FOIA actions, the court held. Further, Wildlands “substantially prevailed” in the case, the court explained, because “it obtained relief through a consent decree.” Accordingly, the court awarded Wildlands $72,701.99 in attorneys’ fees and costs. See: Wildlands CPR v. United States Forest Service, CV-06-101-M-OWM (D.Mon. 2008).

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Related legal case

Wildlands CPR v. United States Forest Service