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ROSE v. BARNHART

United States District Court, Southern District of New York


July 8, 2003

LEON P. ROSE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JO ANNE B. BARNHART, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: John Martin, United States District Judge

OPINION & ORDER

Leon Rose, who prevailed on his claim that the Social Security Administration had improperly denied him benefits and obtained an order remanding his claim for further consideration, brings a motion for attorneys' fees under The Equal Access to Justice Act.

The standards for deciding such a motion were set forth in the opinion of the Second Circuit in Sotelo-Aquije v. Slattery 62 F.3d 54, 57 (1995) as follows:

The Equal Access to Justice Act permits parties who successfully challenge government actions in the courts to recover the costs of litigation when "the position of the United States" was not "substantially justified" and where "special circumstances" do not render such an award "unjust." 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(A). With respect to administrative actions, the term "position of the United States" includes the government's litigating position as well as the position taken by the administrative agency on the merits. Id. § 2412(d)(2)(D). To prove that its position was "substantially justified," the government bears the burden of showing that its position had "a reasonable basis in both law and fact." Federal Election Commission v. Political Contributions Data, Inc., 995 F.2d 383, 386 (2d Cir. 1993) (citing Pierce v. Underwood, 487 U.S. 552, 556 & n. 2, 108 S.Ct. 2541, 2545 & n. 2, 101 L.Ed.2d 490 (1988)), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 114 S.Ct. 1064, 127 L.Ed.2d 384 (1994). "The test is essentially one of reasonableness." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).
The district court's determination as to whether the government's position was substantially justified is "a multifarious . . . question, little susceptible . . . of useful generalization" as either a question of law or fact. Pierce, 487 U.S. at 562, 108 S.Ct. at 2548. In recognition of the complexity of the issue, this court will reverse the district court's determination only for an abuse of discretion. Id.; see also Cassuto v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, 936 F.2d 736, 740 (2d Cir. 1991).
While the issue in this case is close, the Court determines that an award of fees is appropriate.

As the Court observed in its opinion ordering remand:

A review of the very brief record developed by the ALJ, compels the conclusion that the ALJ did not adequately explore the issue of whether the Plaintiff's acknowledged disability had commenced prior to the expiration of his coverage.
The scant attention that the ALJ paid to Plaintiff's claim and his failure to insure that Plaintiff understood his right to counsel and knowingly waived it support the determination that "the position taken by the administrative agency" was not substantially justified.

Thus, Plaintiff is entitled to an award of attorney's fees. The Court finds that the amount of $7,287 is reasonable.

Therefore, Plaintiff is awarded $7,287 in attorney's fees.

SO ORDERED.

20030708

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