United States District Court, D. Arizona
A. Teilborg Senior United States District Judge.
before the Court is Plaintiff Kimberly Lynn Schwab's
Motion for Attorneys' Fees pursuant to the Equal Access
to Justice Act (“EAJA”). (“Motion, ”
Doc. 23). Defendant Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of
Social Security, has filed a response, (Doc. 24), to which
Plaintiff has filed a reply, (Doc. 25). Having considered the
parties' filings, the Court now rules on the Motion.
of 2010, Plaintiff injured her lower back while lifting a
table at work. (Doc. 17 at 2). Over the next few years,
Plaintiff experienced difficulty maintaining even sedentary
employment, and she “ha[d] not engaged in substantial
gainful activity- including employment-since May 17,
2011.” (Id.). On September 26, 2011, Plaintiff
filed a claim for a period of disability and disability
insurance benefits with the Social Security Administration
(“SSA”). (Id. at 3). The SSA denied the
claim, and Plaintiff appealed to an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”), who also denied the claim and affirmed
that decision upon reconsideration. (Id. at 3-4).
The SSA Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for
review on April 14, 2015 prompting her to appeal to federal
court on June 12, 2015. (Id. at 4).
appeal, this Court reversed the ALJ's decision and
remanded for further proceedings. (Id. at 28). The
Court affirmed the ALJ's decision on all issues except
the finding that Dr. Tromp's opinion be given “no
weight.” (Id. at 23-26). On that issue, the
Court found that while the ALJ mentioned multiple reasons to
discount Dr. Tromp's opinion, the decision to do so
ultimately relied on the fact that Dr. Tromp's
examination was arranged “through attorney
referral” and that this “permeate[d] the finding
to such a degree that the Court [found] that it constitutes
the sole basis for rejecting Dr. Tromp's opinion, which
is impermissible.” (Id. at 25-26).
the reversal, Defendant filed a Motion to Amend/Correct,
(Doc. 19), which the Court denied, (Doc. 22). Plaintiff then
filed the current Motion requesting attorneys' fees and
costs under the EAJA. (Doc. 23).
EAJA allows “a prevailing party other than the United
States fees and other expenses . . . incurred by that party
in any civil action . . . 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) (2012). An applicant for
disability benefits becomes a prevailing party for the
purposes of the EAJA if the denial of her benefits is
reversed and remanded regardless of whether disability
benefits are ultimately awarded. Shalala v.
Schaefer, 509 U.S. 292, 300-02 (1993).
“position of the United States” includes both its
litigating position and the “action or failure to act
by the agency upon which the civil action is based.” 28
U.S.C. § 2412(d)(2)(D). For this position to be
substantially justified, it must be “justified in
substance or in the main-that is, justified to a degree that
could satisfy a reasonable person.” Pierce v.
Underwood, 487 U.S. 552, 565 (1988) (holding that
substantially justified means having a reasonable basis both
in law and fact). In EAJA actions, the government bears the
burden of proving that its position was substantially
justified. Gonzales v. Free Speech Coalition, 408
F.3d 613, 618 (9th Cir. 2005). However, “the
government's failure to prevail does not raise a
presumption that its position was not substantially
justified.” Kali v. Bowen, 854 F.2d 329, 332
(9th Cir. 1988).
analyzing the government's position for substantial
justification, the Court's inquiry should be focused on
the issue that was the basis for remand and not the merits of
Plaintiff's claim in its entirety or the ultimate
disability determination. Flores v. Shalala, 49 F.3d
562, 569 (9th Cir. 2008); see also Corbin v. Apfel,
149 F.3d 1051, 1052 (9th Cir. 1998) (“The
government's position must be substantially justified at
each stage of the proceedings.” (citation and internal
quotation marks omitted)).
prevailing party after winning remand from this Court,
Plaintiff moves for an award of attorneys' fees and costs
under the EAJA in the amount of $7, 402.30. Defendant opposes
Plaintiff's request, arguing that the government's
position was substantially justified, (Doc. 24 at 5), and,
alternatively, the requested amount is unreasonable and
should be reduced, (id. at 6).
argues that the government's position was substantially
justified because it was “reasonably based in both law
and fact” and that “one good reason is sufficient
to affirm the decision.” (Id. at 5). Defendant
also asserts that the government's position met the
substantial justification standard because there was a