Black Hills Clean Water Alliance v. United States Forest Service et al, No. 5:2020cv05034 - Document 78 (D.S.D. 2024)

Court Description: MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER on Attorney Fee Award. Signed by U.S. District Judge Lawrence L. Piersol on 05/08/2024. (KLE)

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Black Hills Clean Water Alliance v. United States Forest Service et al Doc. 78 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT DISTRICT OF SOUTH DAKOTA 5:20-CV-5034-LLP BLACK HILLS CLEAN WATER ALLIANCE, Plaintiff, MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER ON ATTORNEY FEE AWARD vs. UNITED STATES FOREST SERVICE, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, Defendants. On February 14, 2024, this Court granted Plaintiff, Black Hills Clean Water Alliance's (BHCWA) motion for attorney fees after finding that it was both eligible for and entitled to attorney fees.(Doc.70.) Further briefing was ordered to assist the Court in determining the amount of attorney fees to award.' The briefing has been completed. This Opinion solely concerns what constitutes a reasonable attorney fee award in this case, BHCWAI. DISCUSSION The Freedom of Information Act(FOIA) provides for the award of"reasonable attorney fees and other litigation costs reasonably incurred in any case under this section in which the complainant has substantially prevailed." 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(E)(i). The D.C. Circuit Court has explained the purpose of this fee-shifting provision: This court, drawing on the Senate and House Committee reports for FOIA and its amendments, explained long ago that the provision for attorney's fees "was not enacted to provide a reward for any litigant who successfully forces the government to disclose information it wished to withhold," but instead "had a more limited purpose—to remove the incentive for administrative resistance to disclosure requests based not on the merits of ' The Court determined that Plaintiff was not eligible for attorney fees or costs in BHCWA2. However, Plaintiff had combined the legal work on the motions for attorney fees in BHCWAI and BHCWA2 instead ofseparating the time spent pursuing attorney fees in each case. Thus,the Court directed Plaintiff to submit a supplement explaining its reasonable costs and attorney fees solely related to preparing the motion for attorney fees in BHCWAI. (Doc. 70.)

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