Carlson v. Astrue
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER denying 25 Motion for Attorney Fees. Signed by Magistrate Judge Evelyn J. Furse on 1/10/14. (jlw)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF UTAH, CENTRAL DIVISION
PEGGY L. CARLSON,
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND
ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR
(ECF No. 25)
Case No. 2:11-cv-386-EJF
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, in her capacity as
Acting Commissioner of the Social Security
Magistrate Judge Evelyn J. Furse
Peggy Carlson filed this action in May 2011 asking this Court to reverse the final agency
decision denying her application for Supplemental Security Income under Title XVI of the Social
Security Act. Because the Administrative Law Judge’s Decision lacked analysis of paragraph A
of two Listings Ms. Carlson argued she met, this Court remanded the case for further findings.
Ms. Carlson now moves this Court for an award of attorney fees under the Equal Access to
Justice Act (“EAJA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2412. Because the Court finds the Government substantially
justified in taking the position it took, the Court denies Ms. Carlson’s Motion. 1
The EAJA provides that “a court shall award to a prevailing party other than the United
States fees and other expenses . . . incurred by that party in any civil action . . . 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
The Court determined it could decide the Motion based on the briefing and does not
need oral argument. See DUCivR 7-1(f).
States was substantially justified or that special circumstances make an award unjust.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 2412(d)(1)(A). “The government bears the burden of showing that its position was
substantially justified.” Gilbert v. Shalala, 45 F.3d 1391, 1394 (10th Cir. 1995) (citation
omitted). “The test for substantial justification in this circuit is one of reasonableness in law and
fact.” Id. (citation omitted).
The Government’s Position Was Substantially Justified
Ms. Carlson argued she met Listings 12.04 and 12.08 from appendix 1 to the regulations.
To meet Listing 12.04 or 12.08 a claimant must meet the requirements of paragraphs A and either
B or C of the Listing. Paragraph A identifies certain medical findings; paragraph B lists
functional limitations; and paragraph C—which only applies in certain Listings, including
12.04—lists functional criteria. See 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, app. 1, § 12.00 (discussing
mental disorders). The ALJ Decision did not discuss paragraph A but instead skipped directly to
paragraphs B and C.
The Government argues its position was substantially justified because even if Ms.
Carlson met paragraph A, she must also meet either paragraph B or C. Thus, findings by the ALJ
that Ms. Carlson did not meet either paragraph B or C under Listing 12.04 or 12.08 would
prevent her from meeting a Listing regardless of any findings under paragraph A. In many cases
the Government would be correct. However, in this case the Court could not evaluate whether
substantial evidence supported the ALJ’s findings because the functional limitations or criteria in
paragraphs B and C must stem from the medical findings of paragraph A and what findings the
ALJ relied on were not obvious. For example, without knowing whether the ALJ thought Ms.
Carlson suffered from Depressive Syndrome, Manic Syndrome, or Bipolar Syndrome and the
specific manifestations of that syndrome the Court cannot assess whether substantial evidence
supports the ALJ’s finding one of these syndromes and its manifestations did not result in either
the paragraph B or C criteria. Despite this error, the Court finds the Government’s position
substantially justified because of the idiosyncratic nature of this case.
In Pierce v. Underwood the Supreme Court stated that “a position can be justified even
though it is not correct, and we believe it can be substantially (i.e., for the most part) justified if a
reasonable person could think it correct, that is, if it has a reasonable basis in law and fact.” 487
U.S. 552, 566 n.2 (1988). The Court finds the Government’s position had a reasonable basis in
law and fact and therefore had substantial justification. Accordingly, the Court denies Ms.
Carlson’s Motion for EAJA attorney fees.
For the reasons set forth above, the Court DENIES Ms. Carlson’s Motion for EAJA
attorney Fees (ECF No. 25).
Dated this 10th day of January, 2014.
BY THE COURT:
Evelyn J. Furse
United States Magistrate Judge
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