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HODGES-WILLIAMS v. BARNHART

June 3, 2004.

ANITA HODGES-WILLIAMS, Plaintiff
v.
JO ANNE B. BARNHART, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MORTON DENLOW, Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

This case comes before this Court on an application for $6,853.69 in attorney's fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act ("EAJA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2412, filed by Plaintiff Anita Hodges-Williams ("Plaintiff). Defendant Jo Anne B. Barnhart, the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner"), argues that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 58, as amended, bars the application as untimely. For the following reasons, the Plaintiff's application for attorney's fees under the EAJA is denied.

I. BACKGROUND FACTS

  Plaintiff was denied Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits in 1993 and 1995. Plaintiff then had a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge, who also denied her social security benefits. Plaintiff subsequently filed a complaint with the district court. Magistrate Judge W. Thomas Rosemond, Jr., issued a memorandum opinion and order on September 27, 2000, granting Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and reversing and remanding the case for further proceedings under sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Judge Rosemond explained his reasoning in a twenty page written opinion. He attached the following minute order to the opinion:
(10) [] [Other docket entry] Plaintiffs Motion for Summary Judgment is granted. Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is denied. For the reasons that follow, the Court reverses the Commissioner's final decision and remands this case for further proceedings.
(11) [] [For further detail see order attached to the original minute order.]
  Williams v. Apfel, No. 99 C 3465 (N.D. Ill. minute order Sept. 27, 2000) (emphasis in original). The minute order and opinion were entered in the civil docket on September 29, 2000. (Dkt.#15).

  Plaintiff has provided a time log indicating that her attorney received Judge Rosemond's decision on September 27, 2000. Pl. Appl., Appx. Ex. B. The September 27, 2000 time entry reads in relevant part as follows: "Received Court Order granting our Motion for Summary Judgment and remanding the case back to SSA for further proceedings." However, no action to seek EAJA fees was taken following the entry of the minute order and opinion until Plaintiff applied for attorney's fees on February 18, 2004.

  In the meantime, on April 29, 2002, Rule 58 was amended to make an order final 150 days after its entry in the civil docket in the event a separate document was not filed. 207 F.R.D. 50, 53 (2002); Fed, R. Civ. P. 58(b)(2)(B). The amendment became effective on December 1, 2002. 207 F.R.D. 50, 53 (2002).

  On February 18, 2004, Plaintiff applied for attorney's fees in the amount of $4,637.31 pursuant to the EAJA for the work performed before Judge Rosemond. On April 26, 2004, Plaintiff applied for an additional $2,216.38 for the time expended in the EAJA litigation. Because Judge Rosemond is retired, the case has been reassigned to this Court.

  The parties agree that Judge Rosemond did not enter a final judgment by means of a separate document. However, the Commissioner contends that the 2002 amendment to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 58 applies to this case. Therefore, the Commissioner maintains that Plaintiff's application for fees was barred as of July 28, 2003. Plaintiff argues that the amendment does not apply and maintains that, absent an effective final judgment, her claim for attorney's fees is premature.

  II. ISSUES PRESENTED

  1. Whether the minute order issued September 27, 2000 constitutes a separate document pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 58.

  Answer: No.

  2. Whether the 2002 amendment to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 58 should be applied to bar Plaintiff's EAJA application for attorney's fees.

  Answer: Yes.

  III. APPLICABLE ...


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