United States District Court, D. Arizona
G. Campbell, Senior United States District Judge
the Court is Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration of
the Court's award of attorneys' fees under the Equal
Access to Justice Act (“EAJA”). Docs. 24, 23.
remand of Plaintiff's social security appeal,
Plaintiff's attorney requested $10, 192.84 in
attorneys' fees. Doc. 22 at 10. The Court awarded fees
but reduced the amount to $7, 644.63, finding Plaintiff
succeeded on only one of her arguments and the Court limited
Plaintiff's remand to reweighing the opinions of an
improperly discredited physician. Doc. 23 at 4. Plaintiff
argues that this decision was erroneous because her remand is
not limited and will instead allow her to present the
unsuccessful arguments, as well as new testimony and medical
evidence, in a new hearing. Doc. 24 at 3.
cites the Hearings, Appeals and Litigation Law Manual for the
Social Security Administration, which states: “If the
Appeals Council  remands a case to the hearing level after
a court remand, it generally vacates the entire
administrative law judge (ALJ) decision, and the ALJ must
consider all pertinent issues de novo.” See
HALLEX I- 2-8-18 (S.S.A.) 1993 WL 643058. But this provision
does not support Plaintiff's broad assertion that every
federal court remand leads to a de novo review by an ALJ.
Indeed, social security regulations indicate that remand
procedures vary depending on the post-remand acts and
instructions of the Appeals Council. See 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.1483 (on remand from a federal court, the Appeals
Council may either make a decision or remand the case to an
ALJ with further instruction); Id. § 416.1477
(An ALJ must “take any action ordered by the Appeals
Council and may take any additional action that is not
inconsistent with the Appeals Council's remand
Plaintiff's reading of the remand procedure would mean
that it is never proper for a district court to discount fees
for unsuccessful arguments. Because every case would be
subject to a de novo hearing, every case would require a full
award of fees, even if the claimant prevailed only on one of
many arguments made in the district court. This is clearly
inconsistent with the Court's EAJA analysis.
also argues that her remand can be distinguished from the
limited remand in Blair. In Blair v.
Colvin, 619 Fed.Appx. 583 (9th Cir. 2015), the Ninth
Circuit upheld a reduction in attorneys' fees, finding a
plaintiff was only partially successful when she received a
federal court remand that was limited to “reassessing
several consultants' positions regarding [the
plaintiff's] ability to persist and handle workplace
stress.” Id. at 585. Plaintiff argues that her
remand is not limited to reconsideration of the treating
physician's opinions but was remanded for further
proceedings on “these issues.” Doc. 24 at 3.
Court's remand stated:
Applying step two of the Ninth Circuit's test, the Court
concludes that outstanding issues must be resolved before a
disability determination can be made. The ALJ properly
discredited Plaintiff's testimony regarding her own
limitations, and Plaintiff has not provided a basis for
finding error in the ALJ's reliance on the opinions of
non-examining physicians. But the ALJ did err in discrediting
[the treating physician's] opinions, which creates an
unresolved outstanding issue: how should that opinion be
weighed against the lack of credibility in Plaintiff's
disability testimony and the opinions of the other
physicians? The Court concludes that further proceedings on
these issues would be useful and will remand for such
Doc. 17 at 13. The Court clearly instructed the ALJ to
reweigh the improperly credited treating physician's
opinions against the properly credited evidence. The
Court's order does not suggest de novo review or a new
hearing and review of the unsuccessful arguments.
argues that no cases citing Blair have reduced EAJA
fees based on limited success. Doc. 24 at 4. The Court has
reviewed Plaintiffs citations but finds none instructive.
Measuring the degree of relief obtained by a Plaintiff is a
case-specific determination to be made at the discretion of
the district court. See Thomas v. City of Tacoma,
410 F.3d 644, 649-50 (9th Cir. 2005). It must factor in the
relationship between the amount of the fee award and the
results obtained. Hensely v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S.
424, 437 (1983). Here the Court considered all the relevant
factors and determined that the fee award should be reduced.
This was not error.
IS ORDERED that Plaintiffs motion for