United States District Court, W.D. Washington
ORDER GRANTING AWARD OF EAJA FEES
RICARDO S. MARTINEZ CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for
Attorney Fees. Dkt. #20. The Commissioner opposes the motion
on the basis that the hours requested are unreasonable. Dkt.
#22. For the reasons set forth below the Court disagrees with
the Commissioner, and GRANTS Plaintiff's motion.
protectively filed a Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) application in December 2012, alleging
disability beginning March 23, 2009. AR 156. Plaintiff
remained insured for DIB through December 31, 2011 and was
required to establish disability on or prior to that
“date last insured” (DLI). See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.131, 404.321. Her application was denied
initially and on reconsideration.
August 17, 2015, Robert F. Campbell issued a decision finding
plaintiff not disabled from the alleged onset date through
the DLI. AR 19-30. Plaintiff timely appealed. The Appeals
Council denied plaintiff's request for review on March 7,
2017 (AR 1-6), making the ALJ's decision the final
decision of the Commissioner. Plaintiff appealed this final
decision of the Commissioner to this Court. Dkt. #3.
response to Plaintiff's Complaint and Opening Brief, the
government agreed that the ALJ had erred in a number of ways
and that Plaintiff was entitled to judgment. Dkt. #12.
However, the government disagreed with Plaintiff on the terms
of remand and the remedy - whether the Court should remand
the case for further administrative proceedings or for a
finding of disability and payment of benefits. Id.
Plaintiff filed a Reply, asserting that payment of benefits
was the appropriate remedy. Dkt. #16.
November 15, 2017, this Court issued an Order reversing the
ALJ's decision and remanding for further administrative
proceedings rather that for an award of benefits. Dkt. #18.
The instant motion followed.
EAJA provides in relevant part:
Except as otherwise specifically provided by statute, a court
shall award to a prevailing party other than the United
States fees and other expenses, in addition to any costs
awarded pursuant to subsection (a), incurred by that party in
any civil action (other than cases sounding in tort),
including proceedings for judicial review of agency action,
brought by or against the United States in any court having
jurisdiction of that action, 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). Thus, to be eligible for EAJA
attorney fees: (1) the claimant must be a “prevailing
party”; (2) the government's position must not have
been “substantially justified”; and (3) no
“special circumstances” must exist that make an
award of attorney fees unjust. Commissioner, Immigration
and Naturalization Serv. v. Jean, 496 U.S. 154, 158, 110
S.Ct. 2316, 110 L.Ed.2d 134 (1990).
United States Supreme Court has held that “the fee
applicant bears the burden of establishing entitlement to an
award and documenting the appropriate hours expended.”
Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 437, 103 S.Ct.
1933, 76 L.Ed.2d 40 (1983). The government has the burden of
proving that its positions overall were substantially
justified. Hardisty v. Astrue, 592 F.3d 1072, 1076
n.2 (9th Cir. 2010), cert. denied, 563 U.S. 991, 131 S.Ct.
2443, 179 L.Ed.2d 1215, 2011 U.S. LEXIS 3726 (U.S. 2011)
(citing Flores v. Shalala, 49 F.3d 562, 569-70 (9th
Cir. 1995)). Further, if the government disputes the
reasonableness of the fee, then it also “has a burden
of rebuttal that requires submission of evidence to the
district court challenging the accuracy and reasonableness of
the hours charged or the facts asserted by the prevailing
party in its submitted affidavits.” Gates v.
Deukmejian, 987 F.2d 1392, 1397-98 (9th Cir. 1992)
(citations omitted). The Court has an independent duty to
review the submitted itemized log of hours to determine the
reasonableness of hours requested in each case. See
Hensley, supra, 461 U.S. at 433, 436-37.
case, Defendant does not dispute that Plaintiff is entitled
to an award of fees. Dkt. #22 at 2. Instead, Defendant
objects to the reasonableness of the fees requested,
“in light of Plaintiff's refusal to accept
Defendant's settlement offer and her unsuccessful attempt
to litigate for greater relief than was offered by
Defendant.” Id. Therefore, all that remains
for this Court is to determine the amount of a reasonable
fee. See 28 U.S.C. § 2412(b); Hensley,
supra, 461 U.S. at 433, 436-37; see also Roberts v.
Astrue, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 80907 (W.D. Wash. 2011),
adopted by 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 80913 (W.D. Wash. 2011).
Once the court determines that a plaintiff is entitled to a
reasonable fee, “the amount of the fee, of course, must
be determined on the facts of each case.” Hensley,
supra, 461 U.S. at 429, 433 n.7. According to the U.S.