Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
March 23, 2005
LAW: This Is America?
The Secretary of Agriculture ("Secretary") appeals the District Court's award of attorney's fees and costs to several milk marketing cooperatives under the Equal Access to Justice Act ("EAJA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2412 (2000). The underlying litigation involved a dispute between the cooperatives and the Secretary over the price of Class III butterfat. The Secretary argues that the District Court erred in concluding that the milk cooperatives were "prevailing parties" under EAJA and in calculating the amount of the award.
So, to summarize, we have a federal cabinet secretary setting - fixing - prices for dairy products, a staple commodity. And we have a federal court overturning this price-fixing, solely because - if you read the rest of the opinion - the Secretary failed to jump through enough bureaucratic hoops, requiring the price to be restored to a different price previously fixed by the same federal department. And we then have a federal court ordering that taxpayer money be given to a "milk marketing cooperative" for the benificient public service of filing a lawsuit over the absence of bureaucratic hoop-jumping.
In the immortal words of PJ O'Rourke, written long ago enough now to make you weep at how little has changed:
[F]arm policy, although it's complex, can be explained. What it can't be is believed. No cheating spouse, no teen with a wrecked family car, no mayor of Washington, DC, videotaped in flagrante delicto has ever come up with anything as farfetched as U.S. farm policy.