United States District Court, D. Oregon, Eugene Division
OPINION AND ORDER
Aiken, United States District Judge.
Rachel Leann Schultz filed this petition (doc. 29) for
attorney fees in the amount of $7, 928.78 under the Equal
Access to Justice Act ("EAJA"), 28 U.S.C. §
2412(d). Defendant Commissioner of the Social Security
"Commissioner", or "government"), objects
to plaintiffs application for attorney fees, arguing that the
Commissioner was substantially justified in defending the
denial of social security insurance (SSI) benefits under the
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 401-134. For the
reasons set forth below, plaintiffs petition (doc. 29) is
filed her application for SSI on May 9, 2012. The
Commissioner denied her application initially and upon
reconsideration. Plaintiff requested a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") and an
administrative hearing was held on July 8, 2014. Plaintiff
then amended her alleged onset date to May 9, 2012. A second
hearing was held on September 30, 2014 to take testimony from
a non-examining medical expert after new evidence was added
to the record. On December 24, 2014, the ALJ issued a written
decision finding plaintiff not disabled. The Appeals Council
denied plaintiffs subsequent request for review on March 9,
2016, and the ALJ's decision became the final decision of
the Commissioner. Plaintiff subsequently appealed to this
Court. Magistrate Judge Russo filed her Findings and
Recommendation ("F & R") on April 21, 2017,
finding that the Commissioner's decision was not
supported by substantial evidence and recommending the case
be reversed and remanded for immediate payment of benefits,
(doc. 24) Subsequently, I adopted Judge Russo's F &
R. (doc. 27) Plaintiff now seeks attorney fees under the EAJA
and defendant objects, (doc. 29 & 30)
the EAJA, courts "shall award to a prevailing party
other than the United States fees and other expenses . . .
incurred by that party in any civil action . . . unless [this
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); Meier v. Colvin, 727 F.3d 867,
870 (9th Cir. 2013), "It is the government's burden
to show that its position was substantially justified."
Meier, 727 F.3d at 870 (citing Gutierrez v.
Barnhart, 274 F.3d 1255, 1258 (9th Cir. 2001)).
Substantial justification is defined as "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). "Put
differently, the government's position must have a
'reasonable basis both in law and fact."'
Meier, 727 F.3d at 870 (quoting Underwood,
487 U.S. at 565).
filed this petition for EAJA attorney fees in the amount of
$7, 928.78. Defendant objects arguing that the Commissioner
was substantially justified in denying plaintiff benefits.
EAJA establishes a two-part test for determining whether an
award of attorney fees is appropriate. See Thomas v.
Peterson, Ml F.2d 332, 335 (9th Cir.1988); see also
Flores v. Shalala, 49 F.3d 562, 567 (9th Cir. 1995).
First, the court must ascertain if the plaintiff was a
prevailing party. Flores, 49 F.3d at 567. If the
plaintiff was a prevailing party, the court must then
evaluate whether the position of the United States was
substantially justified in its position and that no other
special circumstances exist for making an award of attorney
fees unjust. Id.; Meier, 727 F.3d at 870. The
"position of the United States" includes (1) the
underlying agency action giving rise to the civil action and
(2) the government's litigation position. Id.,
If the court finds that the government's underlying
agency action was not substantially justified, it need not
address whether the government's litigation position was
justified. Id. at 872.
Underlying Agency Action
case where the district court finds that the ALJ's
decision is not supported by substantial evidence, the Ninth
Circuit has held that such a situation is "a strong
indication that the position of the United States . . . was
not substantially justified." Meier, 727 F.3d
at 872 (internal quotation omitted).
Judge Russo, in her F & R, held that the ALJ's
decision was not supported by substantial evidence, and I
adopted the F & R. Specifically, the ALJ failed to
provide legally sufficient reasons for rejecting the opinion
of the treating physician Dr. Jenkins that plaintiff could
not sustain full-time employment due to her severe mental
illness. Additionally, the ALJ failed to provide legally
sufficient reasons for rejecting Dr. Causeya's opinion
that plaintiff would not be able to sustain full-time work
because of plaintiff s ongoing anxiety and inability to be
socially appropriate on a consistent basis. Further, the ALJ
failed to provide legally sufficient reasons for rejecting
Dr. Immerman's opinion that plaintiff was not able to
sustain full-time work because of the severity and recurrent
nature of plaintiffs mental illness and need for frequent
psychiatric follow-up and support. Finally, the ALJ erred in
rejecting Dr. Marie's opinion that plaintiff was unable
to work because it was not supported by legally sufficient
reasons. Thus, the Commissioner's decision was not
supported by substantial evidence.
evidence is a legal standard meaning "more than a mere
scintilla but less than a preponderance" and "such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion." Bray v. Comm
>, 554 F.3d 1219, 1222 (9th Cir. 2009). Having found that
the ALJ's decision was not supported by substantial
evidence, this case was also remanded for immediate payment
Judge Russo and I found that the ALJ's decision was not
supported by substantial evidence, I find that the position