Cohen, Collins Introduce Open Book on Equal Access to Justice Act to Increase Transparency

February 14, 2017
Press Release

[WASHINGTON, D.C.]— Congressman Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) and Congressman Doug Collins (R-Ga.) today introduced H.R. 1033, the Open Book on Equal Access to Justice Act, in order to increase accountability from federal agencies.

The Equal Access to Justice Act (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 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 EAJA 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.

“Americans have a right to know what their government is doing, and their government has a duty to be as transparent as possible,” said Congressman Cohen. “Without adequate reporting, citizens' rights cannot be fully protected, and the government risks failing in its duty to its people. I look forward to working with Representative Collins to reopen the government’s books to help ensure that all Americans have access to this information.”

“People should have recourse to challenge the federal government when it errs, and taxpayers should likewise have access to information about how executive agencies are handling such cases. “The Open Book on Equal Access to Justice Act protects taxpayers and individual Americans by ensuring that the original law operates effectively and with transparency. The legislation we’re introducing better equips Congress and every citizen to hold executive agencies accountable for serving Americans with uprightness,” said Congressman Collins.

This legislation has support across the aisle and in both houses of Congress, as Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) introduced the companion bill today.

Original co-sponsors of H.R. 1033 include Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), and Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.).