United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
MICHAEL W. HALL, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Defendant.
ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS'
L. ROBART, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the court on Plaintiff Michael W. Hall's
motion for attorneys' fees and costs (Dkt. # 29) pursuant
to the Equal Access to Justice Act (“EAJA”), 28
U.S.C. § 2412. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
reversed the denial of Mr. Hall's disability benefits and
remanded for further proceedings. (9th Cir. Mem. (Dkt. # 26)
at 6.) Mr. Hall now seeks to recover his attorneys' fees
and costs incurred in pursuing his claim before this court
and the Ninth Circuit. The Commissioner opposes Mr.
Hall's motion. (Resp. (Dkt. # 30).) For the reasons
discussed below, the court GRANTS the motion, with an
adjustment to the costs award.
Hall filed for disability benefits alleging a disability
onset date of April 1, 2007. (R&R (Dkt. # 17) at 1.) On
October 11, 2011, an administrative law judge
(“ALJ”) conducted a hearing to review Mr.
Hall's claim. (Id. at 2.) Among other things,
Mr. Hall relied on opinions from his mental health therapist,
Greg Arnold, to argue that he was disabled due to his mental
impairments. (See Hall Op. Br. (Dkt. # 13) at
13-20.) Mr. Hall submitted to the ALJ Mr. Arnold's
September 2010 and July 2011 opinions. (Id. at 13,
denied Mr. Hall's claim for benefits on October 27, 2011.
(R&R at 2.) The ALJ gave little weight to Mr.
Arnold's September 2010 opinion, but purported to give
significant weight to Mr. Arnold's July 2011 opinion.
(See Id. at 9.)
Hall appealed the ALJ's decision to the Appeals Council,
and submitted a November 2011 letter from Mr. Arnold in which
Mr. Arnold attempted to clarify his July 2011 opinion.
(See AR (Dkt. # 10) at 1061.) Mr. Arnold stated that
Mr. Hall's “bipolar disorder includes cycles of
severe depression every two to three months that increase
isolation severely and would cause [Mr. Hall] to miss
multiple days of work.” (Id.) Mr. Arnold's
July 2011 opinion had stated merely that Mr. Hall had
“depressive feelings” that “generally last
between 3-5 days and during that time [Mr. Hall] will not
answer the phone or door.” (Id. at 1019.) The
Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ's decision.
(R&R at 2.)
Hall then appealed the denial of his disability benefits to
this court. (Compl. (Dkt. # 3).) Mr. Hall argued that the ALJ
erred in assessing Mr. Arnold's July 2011
opinion. (See Hall Op. Br. at 18-20.) In
particular, Mr. Hall argued that the ALJ's residual
functional capacity determination failed to account for Mr.
Arnold's opinion, as clarified by the November 2011
letter, that Mr. Hall would likely miss multiple days of work
every two to three months. (Id. at 19-20.)
Judge John L. Weinberg issued a report and recommendation on
June 10, 2014, affirming the ALJ's decision. (R&R at
14.) Magistrate Judge Weinberg held that the ALJ's
decision adequately addressed Mr. Arnold's July 2011
opinion, and that Mr. Arnold's November 2011 letter was
consistent with the ALJ's interpretation of the July 2011
opinion: “Mr. Arnold's opinion regarding missing
work several days every few months during a depressive cycle
is consistent with the vocational expert's testimony that
this amount of absence [once a month] is acceptable to
employers.” (Id. at 11.)
court adopted Magistrate Judge Weinberg's report and
recommendation and affirmed the ALJ's decision. (Order
Adopting R&R (Dkt. # 20).) The court held that the ALJ
properly weighed the evidence when evaluating Mr.
Arnold's 2011 opinions, and that the ALJ supported his
findings with sufficient reasons. (Id. at 6-7.)
December 15, 2017, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued
an unpublished memorandum reversing the court's decision
and remanding the case to the ALJ for further proceedings.
(9th Cir. Mem. at 6.) The Ninth Circuit agreed with the court
on all but one issue: evaluation of Mr. Arnold's July
2011 opinion. (Id. at 2.) The Ninth Circuit
interpreted Mr. Arnold's November 2011 letter to mean
that Mr. Hall “would miss more than one day of work per
month.” (Id. at 5.) Accordingly, the November
2011 letter “deprive[d] the ALJ's decision denying
benefits of substantial evidence, ” because the
vocational expert on whose testimony the ALJ relied testified
that employers would not tolerate more than one absence per
month. (Id.) The Ninth Circuit remanded for further
proceedings because “[i]t is not clear from the
administrative record that the ALJ would be required to award
benefits if the medical evidence were reevaluated with Mr.
Arnold's November 2011 addendum to his July 2011
opinion.” (Id. at 6.)
to the Ninth Circuit's decision, this court issued an
order remanding the matter to the ALJ on March 22, 2018.
(Order Remanding to ALJ (Dkt. # 28).)
court has discretion to grant or deny a request for
attorneys' fees and costs pursuant to the EAJA.
Pierce v. Underwood, 487 ...