United States District Court, D. Montana, Great Falls Division
ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S APPLICATION FOR AWARD
OF EAJA FEES
JOHNSTON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
judicial review by the undersigned, Mr. Iserloth's case
was remanded to the Commissioner of Social Security for
calculation of an award of benefits, after the Court
concluded that the Administrative Law Judge's (ALJ)
determination denying benefits was not supported by
substantial evidence. (Doc. 18). Mr. Iserloth now requests
attorney's fees and costs under the Equal Access to
Justice Act (EAJA), 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d). (Doc. 20). For
the reasons set forth below, the Commissioner's position
was substantially justified and therefore, Mr. Iserloth is
not entitled to attorney's fees under the EAJA.
Jurisdiction and Venue
District Court has jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. §
405(g). This motion has been referred to the undersigned.
(Doc. 22). Venue is proper in the Great Falls Division of the
District of Montana because Mr. Iserloth resides in Cascade
County, Montana. 28 U.S.C. § 1391(e); Local Rule
November 29, 2017, the District Court remanded the case to
the Commissioner for calculation of benefits. (Doc. 18). On
January 30, 2018, Mr. Iserloth filed an Application for Award
of EAJA Fees, requesting $7, 042.09 in attorney's fees.
(Doc. 20). The Commissioner opposed the award of fees in Mr.
Iserloth's motion, arguing that the Commissioner's
decision was substantially justified. (Doc. 21). The motion
is ripe for decision.
EAJA provides for an award of attorney's fees to a
prevailing party (other than the United States), unless the
position of the United States was substantially justified or
other circumstances make the award of attorney's fees
unjust. 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(A). It is the burden of
the government to prove its position was substantially
justified. Meier v. Colvin, 727 F.3d 867, 870 (9th
position of the government can be substantially justified
even if it was not correct. Pierce v. Underwood, 487
U.S. 552, 556 n. 2 (1988). A position is substantially
justified if it has a “reasonable basis in both law and
fact.” Id. at 555. Substantial justification
means “justified to a degree that could satisfy a
reasonable person.” Gardner v. Berryhill, 856
F.3d 652, 656 (9th Cir. 2017). This includes situations in
which “reasonable people could differ as to the
appropriateness of the contested action.”
Pierce, 487 U.S. at 565. Furthermore, the government
“need not show it had a substantial likelihood of
prevailing.” Petition of Hill, 775 F.2d 1037,
1042 (9th Cir. 1985). Rather, the Commissioner's position
is substantially justified so long as “some
evidence” supports it. Williams v. Bowen, 966
F.2d 1259, 1261 (9th Cir. 1991).
January 23, 2014, Mr. Iserloth applied for disability
benefits and supplemental security income. (Doc. 7 at
158-73). The Administration denied his claim on March 11,
2014, and affirmed its denial of Mr. Iserloth's claim
upon reconsideration on July 21, 2014. (Id. at
August 26, 2014, Mr. Iserloth requested a hearing with an
ALJ. (Id. at 146-47). The ALJ conducted a video
hearing on April 22, 2015, at which Mr. Iserloth appeared
with counsel. (Id. at 40-77). On June 5, 2015, the
ALJ determined Mr. Iserloth did not qualify for benefits.
(Id. at 25-34). On August 3, 2015, Mr. Iserloth
requested the Social Security Administration Appeals Council
(Appeals Council) review the ALJ's determination.
(Id. at 15). On September 13, 2015, the Appeals
Council denied Mr. Iserloth's request, making the
ALJ's determination the final decision of the
Commissioner. (Id. at 1-4).
November 8, 2016, Mr. Iserloth filed a Complaint seeking
judicial review of the Commissioner's decision. (Doc. 1).
United States Magistrate Judge John Johnston found that 1)
The ALJ committed legal error in determining that Mr.
Iserloth's statements about the intensity, persistence,
and limiting effect of his symptoms are not entirely
credible, and 2) The ALJ's determination that Dr.
Warr's opinions were ...