The Law: Fee Gloom

Because funds from foundations and private contributors have begun to dry up, public interest law firms across the U.S. have been increasingly delighted by a recent trend in court judgments. In the past few years, many federal judges have ordered the losers to pay lawyers' fees when a public interest claim was upheld. The theory was that the plaintiffs lawyers had acted as "private attorneys general," helping to enforce laws that public agencies could not administer adequately.

In one such case, The Wilderness Society, The Environmental Defense Fund and Friends of the Earth mounted a complex legal attack on the Alaska pipeline....

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