United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Eastern Division
K. E. Mahoney United States Magistrate Judge.
matter is before the court on Plaintiff's Application for
Attorney Fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act (Doc.
18), filed on March 16, 2017. In this motion, Plaintiff
requests attorney fees in the amount of $4, 490.99 pursuant
to the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), 28 U.S.C. §
2412. Doc. 18. Plaintiff also requests that the fees, after
any offset, be delivered to Plaintiff's attorney. Doc.
filed a response (Doc. 19), indicating there is no objection
to Plaintiff's requested attorney fees under the EAJA.
Defendant also states that, “[i]n accordance with
Astrue v. Ratliff, 560 U.S. 586 (2010), the EAJA fee
is payable to the plaintiff as the litigant and may be
subject to offset to satisfy a pre-existing debt that the
litigant owes to the United States.@ Doc. 19.
court may award fees and other expenses under the EAJA to the
prevailing party in a Social Security appeal, “unless
the court finds that the position of the United States was
substantially justified or that special circumstances make
the award unjust.” 28 U.S.C. 2412(d)(1)(A). A position
is “substantially justified” if it has a
“reasonable basis in law and fact, ” even if it
was a losing position. Goad v. Barnhart, 398 F.3d
1021, 1025 (8th Cir. 2005); see also Lauer v.
Barnhart, 321 F.3d 762, 764-65 (8th Cir. 2003) (holding
that the position taken must be “well founded in
fact”); Sawyers v. Shalala, 990 F.2d 1033,
1034 (8th Cir. 1993) (explaining the position must be
“justified to a degree that could satisfy a reasonable
person”) (citation omitted). The Commissioner of the
Social Security Administration (Commissioner) bears the
burden of proving substantial justification. Goad,
398 F.3d at 1025. With regard to “special
circumstances, ” few cases before the Eighth Circuit
Court of Appeals have addressed when this exception applies.
See Koos v. Sullivan, 982 F.2d 1226, 1229 (8th Cir.
1993) (finding without elaboration no special circumstances,
but noting that denial of fees to a party whose action
brought about a change in position would be unjust);
Jackson v. Bowen, 807 F.2d 127, 128 n.3 (8th Cir.
1986) (noting that this “exception helps to ensure that
the [Commissioner] can advance in good faith novel but
credible interpretations of law”) (citation omitted).
order to obtain an award for fees and expenses, the party
must file an application no later than 30 days from when the
judgment becomes final. 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(B). The
party must allege that the Commissioner's position was
not substantially justified and specify the Aamount sought,
including an itemized statement . . . [of] the actual time
expended and the rate at which fees and other expenses were
computed.'' 28 U.S.C. 2412(d)(1)(B). The court may
award “reasonable attorney fees, ” which should
not exceed $125 per hour unless the court finds that cost of
living or a special factor justifies a higher rate. 28 U.S.C.
2412(d)(2)(A); see Johnson v. Sullivan, 919 F.2d
503, 505 (8th Cir. 1990) (granting a higher attorney fee rate
based on unrebutted evidence of the Department of Labor's
Consumer Price Index, as well as information about the
attorney's experience and a recent award of EAJA fees at
the requested rate).
fees awarded under the EAJA are payable directly to the party
and not to the party's attorney. Ratliff, 560
U.S. at 593-94. Accordingly, if the party owes any
“outstanding federal debts, ” the government is
entitled to offset the fee award by the debt the party owes
the government. Id. Courts have recognized that
while the award is made to the party, payment of that award
may be delivered to the party's attorney if consistent
with the practices of the relevant agency and department.
See Eads v. Berryhill, No. 16-CV-97-LRR, 2017 WL
1196444, at *2 (N.D. Iowa March 29, 2017); Kunik v.
Colvin, No. C13-3025-LTS, 2014 WL 1883804, at *3 (N.D.
Iowa May 12, 2014); Kinseth v. Colvin, No.
C12-3033-MWB, 2013 WL 6410982, at *2 (N.D. Iowa Dec. 9,
case, the court finds, and Defendant does not dispute, that
Plaintiff has satisfied each of the conditions for an award
of attorney fees. Plaintiff is the prevailing party in this
Social Security appeal. Plaintiff timely filed an application
for fees incurred in this action, which included an itemized
statement of the time expended and computation rate. The
court also finds that the information provided by Plaintiff
(Doc. 18-1) justifies the increase in the hourly rate. The
court further finds that Defendant has not shown substantial
justification or special circumstances that support denying
an award in this case. The attorney fees requested by
Plaintiff are reasonable.
Plaintiff's Application (Doc. 18) is granted. Plaintiff
is hereby awarded attorney fees in the amount of $4, 490.99,
subject to any applicable offset,  to be paid by the Social
Security Administration. If consistent with the
Commissioner's and Department of Treasury's
practices, the EAJA payment may be delivered to
IS SO ORDERED