United States District Court, Southern District of New York
July 8, 2003
LEON P. ROSE, PLAINTIFF,
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.
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