Bates v. Commissioner of Social Security
ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION 20 and denying application for EAJA fees 16 ; signed by District Judge Paul L. Maloney (Judge Paul L. Maloney, cmc)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
PHILLIP HAROLD BATES,
-vCOMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY,
Honorable Paul L. Maloney
ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION AND DENYING
APPLICATION FOR EAJA FEES
On September 6, 2016, this Court issued an opinion and judgment in this appeal of
the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying benefits. The Court
reversed the Commissioner’s judgment and remanded the matter under sentence four of 42
U.S.C. § 405(g) for further factual proceedings. Plaintiff then filed an application for attorney
fees (ECF No. 16), which the magistrate judge recommends be denied (ECF No. 20).
Plaintiff filed objections. (ECF No. 21.)
After being served with a report and recommendation (R&R) issued by a magistrate
judge, a party has fourteen days to file written objections to the proposed findings and
recommendations. 28 U.S.C. ' 636(b)(1); Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b). A district court judge
reviews de novo the portions of the R&R to which objections have been filed. 28 U.S.C. '
636(b)(1); Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b). Only those objections that are specific are entitled to a de
novo review under the statute. Mira v. Marshall, 806 F.2d 636, 637 (6th Cir. 1986) (per
The issue presented by the application for fees and by the Government’s response is
whether the government’s position was without substantial justification. “[A] position is
substantially justified when it has a ‘reasonable basis in both law and fact.’” Howard v.
Barnhart, 376 F.3d 551, 554 (6th Cir. 2004) (quoting Pierce v. Underwood, 487 U.S. 552,
565 (1988)). A remand for additional factual findings does not, by itself, satisfy this standard.
See Glenn v. Comm’r Soc. Sec., 763 F.3d 494, 498 (6th Cir. 2014). The Sixth Circuit has
held that, generally, an ALJ’s failure to sufficiently explain a conclusion results in a
procedural error, not a substantive error. DeLong v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 748 F.3d 723,
727 (6th Cir. 2014). And, “when nothing specific about the specific remand at issue implies
a lack of substantial justification[,]” an award of attorney fees is not appropriate. Id.
The government’s position was substantially justified. Plaintiff challenged the ALJ’s
use of boilerplate language in assessing Plaintiff’s credibility. The Commissioner defended
the ALJ, but this Court concluded that the ALJ’s opinion lacked a sufficient explanation of
the findings regarding Plaintiff’s credibility. The Court’s conclusion identified a procedural
problem and the conclusion did not imply that the ALJ’s conclusion regarding Plaintiff’s
credibility was without justification. Undermining Plaintiff’s request for fees, the Court noted
that the Commissioner did provide reasons why the ALJ could have found Plaintiff not
credible. (ECF No. 14 Opinion at 14 PageID.734.) Accordingly, the Commissioner’s
position on the issue remanded was not without substantial justification.
Having reviewed the R&R and objection, and the relevant case law, the Court
ADOPTS the Report and Recommendation (ECF No. 20) as the opinion of this Court.
Therefore, Plaintiff’s application for EAJA fees (ECF No. 16) is DENIED.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Date: August 21, 2017
/s/ Paul L. Maloney
Paul L. Maloney
United States District Judge
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