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Meier v. Colvin

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

July 23, 2013

Jeffrey Meier, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Carolyn W. Colvin, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant-Appellee.

Submitted August 10, 2012[*]

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Montana Sam E. Haddon, District Judge, Presiding D.C. No. 4:09-cv-00031-SEH

COUNSEL

John E. Seidlitz, Jr., Seidlitz Law Office, Great Falls, Montana, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Michael C. Cotter, United States Attorney, George F. Darragh, Jr., Assistant United States Attorney, Great Falls, Montana; Dorrelyn K. Dietrich, Special Assistant United States Attorney, Social Security Administration, Office of the General Counsel, Denver, Colorado; John Jay Lee, Regional Chief Counsel, Region VIII, Social Security Administration, Office of the General Counsel, Denver, Colorado, for Defendant-Appellee.

Before: William A. Fletcher and Raymond C. Fisher, Circuit Judges, and James P. Jones, District Judge. [**]

SUMMARY[***]

Equal Access to Justice Act / Attorneys' Fees

The panel reversed the district court's order denying a plaintiff's motion for attorneys' fees and costs under the Equal Access to Justice Act, and it remanded for an award of fees and costs.

The panel held that the position of the United States was not substantially justified in this case concerning the plaintiff's application for social security disability benefits. The panel stated that the "position of the United States" includes both the government's litigation position and the underlying agency action giving rise to the civil action. The panel held that in the social security context, the court treats the decision of the administrative law judge as the underlying agency action.

OPINION

FISHER, Circuit Judge:

Jeffrey Meier appeals the district court's order denying his motion for attorney's fees and costs under the Equal Access to Justice Act. We hold that the position of the United States was not substantially justified. We therefore reverse and remand for an award of fees and costs.

BACKGROUND

Meier applied for social security disability benefits. The administrative law judge (ALJ) denied benefits and the district court affirmed. We reversed and remanded for an award of benefits in an unpublished memorandum disposition, holding that the ALJ (1) failed to offer specific and legitimate reasons, supported by substantial evidence, for rejecting treating physician Dr. Mel Margaris' opinion that Meier was incapable of working, and (2) failed to offer clear and convincing reasons, supported ...


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