United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
CLIFFORD J. PROUD UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on plaintiff's Motion for
Attorney's Fees Under the Equal Access to Justice Act.
(Doc. 47). Defendant filed a response in opposition at Doc.
50 and plaintiff filed a reply at Doc. 53.
to the Equal Access to Justice Act, 28 U.S.C.
§2412(d)(1)(A), the Court shall award attorney's
fees and expenses to a prevailing party in a civil action
against the United States, including proceedings for judicial
review of agency action, unless the government's position
was substantially justified. The hourly rate for
attorney's fees is not to exceed $125.00 per hour
“unless the court determines that an increase in the
cost of living or a special factor, such as the limited
availability of qualified attorneys for the proceedings
involved, justifies a higher fee.” §2412(d)(2)(A).
2015 the Seventh Circuit reversed this Court's order
affirming the ALJ's decision and directed the Court to
remand this case for further administrative proceedings. Doc.
45. Plaintiff is, therefore, the prevailing party.
See, Shalala v. Schaefer, 509 U.S. 292, 302
response to the motion, the Commissioner argues the Court
should not award fees because the government's position
was substantially justified and plaintiff's fees sought
EAJA does not define the term “substantially justified,
” and the Seventh Circuit has recognized that its
meaning in this context is not “self-evident.”
U.S. v. Thouvenot, Wade & Moerschen, Inc., 596
F.3d 378, 381 (7th Cir. 2010). However, in view of the
purpose of the Act, substantially justified means something
more than “not frivolous;” the government's
position “must have sufficient merit to negate an
inference that the government was coming down on its small
opponent in a careless and oppressive fashion.”
Id., at 381-382.
government's position is substantially justified where it
had a “reasonable basis in law and fact, that is, if a
reasonable person could believe the position was
correct.” Golembiewski v. Barnhart, 382 F.3d
721, 724 (7th Cir. 2004)(internal citations omitted). The
Commissioner bears the burden of demonstrating that her
position was substantially justified, and the Court must make
a determination based on an assessment of both the
government's pre-litigation and litigation conduct,
including the decision of the ALJ. Ibid.
history and the specifics of the ALJ's decision are
discussed in detail in the opinion written by the Seventh
Circuit in Price v. Colvin, 794 F.3d 836 (7th Cir.
2015). The Seventh Circuit found that plaintiff's history
created a presumption he would have continued to receive
benefits had he not been sent to prison. Id. at 837.
They also noted that plaintiff's combined intellectual
problems and psychiatric abnormalities were consistent with
rendering a person so afflicted incapable of gainful
employment. Id. at 839. Judge Posner made it clear
that the reasons given for finding plaintiff to be capable of
gainful employment were “unconvincing.”
Id. at 839.
Commissioner argues that the fact that this Court found that
the ALJ's decision was reasonable initially serves as
prima facie evidence that a reasonable person would
also find her position to be reasonable. Doc. 47, p. 3.
However, Judge Posner notably disagreed with the idea that
there was substantial justification in the ALJ's
reasoning when he stated the “unavoidable
conclusion” was “that the judgment of the
district court must be . . . reversed.” Price,
794 at 841. As plaintiff notes in his EAJA brief, the
appellate court excoriated the ALJ's decision, noting
that facts were cherry picked, the ALJ had several instances
within his opinion that lacked evidentiary support, and that
there was an absence of logical bases for several
conclusions. This is not indicative of a substantially
if the Commissioner's arguments were correct any party
that advanced appeals to the Appeals Court and won at that
level could not be granted fees. This is illogical. As the
Seventh Circuit has stated, “if it is apparent from our
opinion that we think the government lacked a substantial
justification for its position, though the judge had thought
it not only substantially justified but correct, he must bow.
Golembiewski v.Barnhart, 382 F.3d 721, 724-25 (7th
Cir.2004); Friends of Boundary Waters Wilderness v.
Thomas, supra, 53 F.3d at 885-86.” United
States v. Thouvenot, Wade & Moerschen, Inc., 596
F.3d 378, 384 (7th Cir. 2010).
Commissioner fails to advance arguments that show her
position was substantially justified as a whole. Gatimi
v. Holder, 606 F.3d 344, 349-50 (7th Cir. 2010). She
does not indicate how she had a rational ground for her
arguments outside of this Court's initial review of the
case. Therefore, the Court finds that plaintiff is entitled
to an award of attorney's fees under the EAJA.