Barefoot v. Colvin(CONSENT)
MEMORANDUM OPINION and ORDER that the 16 Motion for Attorney's Fees be and is hereby GRANTED to the extent that the plaintiff be and is hereby AWARDED fees in the amount of $3,290.69. 2. To the extent that plaintiff's counsel reque sts that fees be awarded directly to counsel, 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(A) authorizes the court to award fees to the prevailing party. See 28 U.S.C. § (d)(2)(B). The motion that fees be paid directly to counsel be and is hereby DENIED. However, the Commissioner is DIRECTED to mail the check to Barefoots counsel. Signed by Honorable Judge Charles S. Coody on 8/14/2015. (dmn, ) Modified on 4/14/2015 to reflect actual title. (dmn, )
IN THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
MERITA DIANE BAREFOOT,
CAROLYN W. CAROLYN W. COLVIN,
Acting Commissioner of Social Security,1
) CIVIL ACTION NO. 1:13cv841-CSC
MEMORANDUM OPINION and ORDER
On March 18, 2015, the plaintiff filed a motion for attorney fees pursuant to the Equal
Justice Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d). (Doc. # 16). The Commissioner objects to an award of fees
because her “position was substantially justified.” (Doc. # 19).
Plaintiff Merita Barefoot (“Barefoot”) applied for and was denied disability insurance
benefits by the Commissioner. After her application was denied, she sought judicial review in
this court. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1) and M.D. Ala. LR 73.1, the parties consented to
a United States Magistrate Judge conducting all proceedings in this case and ordering the entry
of final judgment. On January 7, 2015, the court concluded that the ALJ erred as a matter of
law and remanded the case for an award of benefits. (Doc. # 14 at 13 & 24).
A Social Security disability claimant is a prevailing party entitled to seek EAJA fees
when the claimant obtains a remand for reconsideration of her case or an award of benefits. See
Shala v. Schaefer, 509 U.S. 292, 300-01 (1993). Clearly, the plaintiff is a prevailing party.
Carolyn W. Colvin became the Acting Commissioner of Social Security on February 14, 2013.
Under the EAJA, the court “shall award” attorney’s fees “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). “The government’s position is substantially justified under the EAJA when it is
justified to a degree that would satisfy a reasonable person - i.e. when it has a reasonable basis
in both law and fact. The government bears the burden of showing that its position was
substantially justified.” United States v. Douglas, 55 F.3d 584, 588 (11th Cir. 1995) (quoting
Pierce v. Underwood, 487 U.S. 552, 565 (1988)).
The court concluded that a remand for an award of benefits was necessary because the
decision of the ALJ was “not supported by substantial evidence and [was] not consistent with
applicable legal principles.” (Doc. # 14 at 13). In fact, the court concluded that “[t]he ALJ’s
representation of the record and her factual findings are fundamentally flawed, totally
unsupported by the record, and inconsistent with the governing legal principles.” (Id. at 14)
Thus, the Commissioner’s position in this litigation did not have a reasonable basis in fact or
law. Pierce requires that the government’s position be reasonable both in fact and law to be
The Commissioner argues that the plaintiff is not entitled to fees because “[g]iven that
the issue is whether the ALJ’s decision was arguably supported by substantial evidence, the
Commissioner’s position was substantially justified.” (Doc. # 19 at 3). Beyond this conclusory
statement, the Commissioner points the court to no evidence and makes no other argument that
her position was substantially justified.
Consequently, the court concludes that the
Commissioner’s position was not reasonable in fact or law, and the plaintiff is entitled to an
award of fees under EAJA.
The plaintiff seeks fees in the amount of $3,290.69. The Commissioner does not
challenge any of the hours expended by counsel as unreasonable nor does she challenge the
hourly rate. Accordingly, upon consideration of the motion, and for good cause, it is
ORDERED that the motion for attorney’s fees (doc. # 16) be and is hereby GRANTED
to the extent that the plaintiff be and is hereby AWARDED fees in the amount of $3,290.69.
To the extent that plaintiff’s counsel requests that fees be awarded directly to
counsel, 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(A) authorizes the court to award fees to the prevailing party.2
See 28 U.S.C. § (d)(2)(B). The motion that fees be paid directly to counsel be and is hereby
DENIED. However, the Commissioner is DIRECTED to mail the check to Barefoot’s counsel.
Done this 14th day of April, 2015.
/s/Charles S. Coody
CHARLES S. COODY
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
On May 5, 2008, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals decided Reeves v. Astrue, 526 F.3d 732
(11th Cir. 2008) in which the Court unambiguously held that “attorney's fees are awarded to the prevailing
party, not to the prevailing party's attorney.” Id. at 738. On June 14, 2010, the United States Supreme Court
decided Astrue v. Ratliff, 130 S.Ct. 2521 (2010) in which the Court unambiguously held that attorney’s fees
are awarded to the prevailing litigant, not to prevailing litigant’s attorney. See also Reeves v. Astrue, 526
F.3d 732, 738 (11th Cir. 2008) (“attorney’s fees are awarded to the prevailing party, not to the prevailing
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