United States District Court, E.D. California
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR ATTORNEY
FEES AND EXPENSES PURSUANT TO THE EQUAL ACCESS TO JUSTICE ACT
K. Oberto. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
successfully obtaining reversal of an Administrative Law
Judge's (“ALJ”) decision denying his
application for Social Security disability benefits and
following the Court's ruling denying Defendant's
motion to alter or amend judgment, Plaintiff filed an
application for an award of attorney fees and costs pursuant
to the Equal Access to Justice Act (“EAJA”) in
the amount of $6, 017.63. (See Doc. 28 at 6 (seeking
an award of $6, 011.59 in total fees (31.35 hours in attorney
time) and $6.04 in costs).)
March 30, 2017, Defendant filed an opposition asserting that
Plaintiff is not entitled to EAJA fees and costs because
Defendant's position was “substantially
justified.” (Doc. 31.) On April 14, 2017, Plaintiff
filed a reply brief, which requested a supplemental EAJA
award of $674.38 for 3.5 hours spent on the reply brief, for
a revised total award of $ 6, 692.01. (Doc. 32.)
reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's application for EAJA
fees and expenses is GRANTED.
filed this action on May 26, 2015, seeking judicial review of
a final administrative decision denying his application for
Social Security disability benefits. On August 2, 2016, the
Court issued an order reversing the ALJ's decision and
remanding the case for award or benefits based on the
ALJ's failure to articulate specific and germane reasons
for rejecting lay witnesses' testimony. (Doc. 22.) On
August 30, 2016, Defendant filed a motion to alter or amend
judgment, contending that the Court committed clear error
when it found that the ALJ's decision was not supported
by substantial evidence due to the ALJ's improper
rejection of the lay testimony of Plaintiff's mother and
the ALJ's deficient analysis of the lay testimony of
Plaintiff's uncle. (Doc. 24.) On November 30, 2016, the
Court denied Defendant's motion for reconsideration,
again finding that the ALJ failed to address what weight, if
any, he accorded Plaintiff's uncle's
testimony. (Doc. 27 at 5 (citing Lewis v.
Apfel, 236 F.3d 503, 511 (9th Cir. 2001).)
February 28, 2017, Plaintiff filed a motion for EAJA fees and
expenses, seeking a total award of $6, 017.63. (See
Doc. 28 at 6 (seeking an award of $6, 011.59 in total fees
(31.35 hours in attorney time) and $6.04 in costs); see
also Doc. 32 (seeking an additional award of $674.38 for
3.5 attorney hours spent on the reply brief, for a revised
total award of $6, 692.01).) Defendant filed an opposition
asserting Plaintiff is not entitled to EAJA fees and costs
because Defendant's “findings were substantially
justified.” (Doc. 31 at 2.) It is Plaintiff's
motion for attorney fees and expenses under the EAJA that is
currently pending before the Court.
EAJA provides that “a court shall award to a prevailing
party . . . fees and other expenses . . . incurred by that
party in any civil action . . . brought by or against the
United States . . . unless the court finds that the position
of the United States was substantially justified or that
special circumstances make an award unjust.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 2412(d)(1)(A); see also Gisbrecht v.
Barnhart, 535 U.S. 789, 796 (2002). “It is the
government's burden to show that its position was
substantially justified or that special circumstances exist
to make an award unjust.” Gutierrez v.
Barnhart, 274 F.3d 1255, 1258 (9th Cir. 2001).
“party” under the EAJA is defined as including
“an individual whose net worth did not exceed $2, 000,
000 at the time the civil action was filed[.]” 28
U.S.C. § 2412(d)(2)(B)(i). The term “fees and
other expenses” includes “reasonable attorney
fees.” 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(2)(A). “The
statute explicitly permits the court, in its discretion, to
reduce the amount awarded to the prevailing party to the
extent that the party ‘unduly and unreasonably
protracted' the final resolution of the case.”
Atkins v. Apfel, 154 F.3d 986, 987 (9th Cir.1998)
(citing 28 U.S.C. §§ 2412(d)(1)(C) &
who obtains a remand in a Social Security case is a
prevailing party for purposes of the EAJA. Shalala v.
Schaefer, 509 U.S. 292, 300-01 (1993) (“No holding
of this Court has ever denied prevailing-party status . . .
to a plaintiff who won a remand order pursuant to sentence
four of § 405(g) . . ., which terminates the litigation
with victory for the plaintiff”). “An applicant
for disability benefits becomes a prevailing party for the
purposes of the EAJA if the denial of her benefits is
reversed and remanded regardless of whether disability
benefits ultimately are awarded.” Gutierrez,
274 F.3d at 1257.
is no dispute Plaintiff is the prevailing party in this
litigation. Moreover, the Court finds Plaintiff did not
unduly delay this litigation, and Plaintiff's net worth
did not exceed two million dollars when this action was
filed. The Court thus considers below whether Defendant's
actions were substantially justified.
The Government's Position was Not ...