Schuster v. Colvin
ORDER granting 25 Plaintiffs Motion for Attorney Fees Pursuant to the Equal Access to Justice Act. Defendant shall pay attorneys fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act in the amount of $6,592.29 made payable to Plaintiff and delivered to Plaintiffs attorney, by Judge William J. Martinez on 10/3/2014.(evana, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLORADO
Judge William J. Martínez
Civil Action No. 13-cv-0718-WJM
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration,
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR AWARD OF ATTORNEY’S FEES
PURSUANT TO THE EQUAL ACCESS TO JUSTICE ACT
On February 28, 2014, the Court vacated the Commissioner’s denial of benefits
to the Plaintiff and remanded this action for further proceedings. (ECF No. 23.) This
matter is now before the Court on Plaintiff’s Motion for Attorney Fees Pursuant to the
Equal Access to Justice Act (“Motion”). (ECF No. 25.) For the following reasons, the
Motion is granted.
I. LEGAL STANDARD
The Equal Access to Justice Act (“EAJA”) requires that a court “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 f inds that the position of
the United States was substantially justified . . . .” 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(A). “The
Government bears the burden of showing that its position was substantially justified. . . .
The test for substantial justification in this circuit is one of reasonableness in law and
fact.” Gilbert v. Shalala, 45 F.3d 1391, 1394 (10th Cir. 1995).
The Court remanded this action to the Commissioner for further proceedings
because the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) did not have the benefit of Social
Security Ruling (“SSR”) 12-2p, Titles II and XVI: Evaluation of Fibromyalgia when
rendering her decision. (ECF No. 23.) SSR 12-2p, which was issued after the ALJ
published her decision, clarifies that because fibromyalgia is not a listed impairment, the
ALJ must “determine whether [fibromyalgia] medically equals a listing . . ., or whether it
medically equals a listing in combination with at least one other medically determinable
impairment.” SSR 12-2p, 2012 WL 3104869, at *6.
Although the Commissioner argued that the ALJ’s decision was consistent with
SSR 12-2p (ECF No. 18), the Court found that the ALJ did not undertake the
appropriate analysis. (ECF No. 23 at 5.) As a result, the Court could not determ ine
whether the ALJ would have found that Plaintiff was disabled if she had followed SSR
12-2p and considered whether Plaintiff’s fibromyalgia “medically equals a listing” alone
or in combination with another impairment. (Id. at 5-6.)
In opposing the request for attorney’s fees, the Commissioner has essentially
repeated the same arguments made in the Commissioner’s Response Brief on the
merits. What he has failed to do is demonstrate that his legal position in this case was
substantially justified. While the Court understands that, in some cases, the
Commissioner’s position could be substantially justified despite ultimately losing on the
merits, that is not so in this particular case. Given the basis for the Court’s decision on
the merits, reiterated above, the Court finds that Plaintiff is entitled to an award of
attorney’s fees under EAJA.
Plaintiff’s Motion requests attorney’s fees in the amount of $6,367.87 for 33.6
hours of work at $187.02 per hour and .7 hours in paralegal time. (ECF No. 26 at 8-9.)
The Commissioner presents no specific argument challenging this hourly rate or the
reasonableness of the amount of time purportedly spent by Plaintiff’s counsel on the
matter; the Commissioner argues only that the Government’s position on the merits was
substantially justified. (ECF No. 27.) The Court, therefore, finds it appropriate to award
the full amount of fees requested by Plaintiff.
In Plaintiff’s Reply, Plaintiff also seeks reimbursement for the additional 1.2 hours
spent drafting Plaintiff’s Reply on the attorney’s fees issue, totaling an additional
$224.42 in requested attorney’s fees. (ECF No. 28 at 5.) The Court also finds it
appropriate to award this additional amount. See Commissioner v. Jean, 496 U.S. 154
(1990) (holding that fees awarded under EAJA may include the fees incurred in litigating
the fee dispute itself); Brodeur v. Astrue, 2010 WL 4038611, at *1 (D. Colo. Oct. 14,
2010) (awarding Plaintiff’s entire fee request, including fees based on time spent in
connection with Plaintiff’s Reply to Defendant’s Objection to Motion for EAJA Fees).
For the reasons set forth above, the Court ORDERS as follows:
1. Plaintiff’s Motion for Attorney Fees Pursuant to the Equal Access to Justice
Act (ECF No. 25) is GRANTED; and
2. Defendant shall pay attorney’s fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act in
the amount of $6,592.29 made payable to Plaintiff and delivered to Plaintiff’s attorney.
Dated this 3rd day of October, 2014.
BY THE COURT:
William J. Martínez
United States District Judge
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