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Equal Access to Justice Act

Last Updated November 9, 2004

I. Statute

The Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) has two parts.  One part concerns adversarial administrative proceedings.  5 U.S.C. 504.  One part concerns civil actions, i.e., court cases.  28 U.S.C. 2412.  For Social Security and SSI disability administrative proceedings, no EAJA fees may be recovered under 5 U.S.C. 504.  The proceedings are not adversarial.  Sullivan v. Hudson490 U.S. 877 (1989).  EAJA fees are available under 28 U.S.C. 2412(d) for administrative proceedings on a remand under sentence six of 42 U.S.C. 405(g).

One provision of the EAJA is not codified in the United States Code.  Every practitioner should be familiar with it.  Section 206 of Pub. L. 96-481, as amended by Pub. L. 99-80, 3, Aug. 5, 1985, 99 Stat. 186, provided that:

(b) Section 206(b) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 406(b)(1)) [section 406(b) of Title 42, The Public Health and Welfare] shall not prevent an award of fees and other expenses under section 2412(d) of title 28, United States Code [subsection (d) of this section]. Section 206(b)(2) of the Social Security Act [section 406(b)(2) of Title 42] shall not apply with respect to any such award but only if, where the claimant's attorney receives fees for the same work under both section 206(b) of that Act [section 406(b) of Title 42] and section 2412(d) of title 28, United States Code [subsection. (d) of this section], the claimant's attorney refunds to the claimant the amount of the smaller fee.

II. Supreme Court Cases

A. EAJA Cases

Scarborough v. Principi, 124 S. Ct. 1856 (2004) (supremecourtus.gov) (FindLaw).

Shalala v. Schaefer, 509 U.S. 292 (1993).

Ardestani v. Commissioner, INS, 502 U.S. 129 (1991).

Melkonyan v. Sullivan, 501 U.S. 89 (1991).

Commissioner, INS v. Jean, 496 U.S. 154 (1990).

Sullivan v. Hudson490 U.S. 877 (1989).

Pierce v. Underwood, 487 U.S. 552 (1988). 

B. Attorney Fee Cases Generally

Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424 (1983)

III. Thirty-Day Time Limit

Scarborough v. Principi, 124 S. Ct. 1856 (2004) (supremecourtus.gov) (FindLaw).

Shalala v. Schaefer, 509 U.S. 292 (1993).

Melkonyan v. Sullivan, 501 U.S. 89 (1991).

Bryan v. OPM, 165 F.3d 1315 (10th Cir. 1999) (kscourts.org).

Richmond v. Chater, 94 F.3d 263 (7th Cir. 1996) (FindLaw).

Kolman v. Shalala, 39 F.3d 173 (7th Cir. 1994).

O'Connor v. Shalala, 23 F.3d 1232 (7th Cir. 1994).

Note: There are at least three theories for the EAJA's time limit after an appellate court judgment.   First, there is the Seventh Circuit's O'Connor theory.  Second, there is the thirty-days-from-judgment (or mandate) theory.  Third, there is the thirty days after the time for filing a petition for a writ of cert. expires.  There is no correct theory as the Supreme Court has not addressed the issue.  The cautious and prudent practitioner will file an EAJA application within thirty days of the appellate court judgment.  Rest assured that the time limit cannot be shorter than that thirty days.

IV. Net Worth

V. Prevailing Party

Shalala v. Schaefer, 509 U.S. 292 (1993).

Jackson v. Chater, 94 F.3d 274 (7th Cir. 1996) (FindLaw).  Note: Jackson's dictum about prevailing party is not precedential in light of Schaefer

VI. Substantial Justification

Scarborough v. Principi, 124 S. Ct. 1856 (2004) (supremecourtus.gov) (FindLaw).

Pierce v. Underwood, 487 U.S. 552 (1988).

United States v. Hallmark Constr. Co. -- F.3d --, No. 99-1948 (7th Cir. Jan. 11, 2000) (uscourts.gov) (Kent) (docket No. 99-1948).

VII. Hourly Rate

Raines v. Shalala, 44 F.3d 1355 (7th Cir. 1995).

Marcus v. Shalala, 17 F.3d 1033 (7th Cir. 1994).

VIII. Number of Hours

Gibson-Jones v. Apfel, 995 F. Supp. 825, 827 (N.D. Ill. 1998) (awarding attorney fees for 65.75 hours for district court litigation); Rice v. Apfel, 16 F. Supp.2d 971, 974-75 (N.D. Ill. 1998) (awarding attorney fees for 62.84 hours for district court litigation); Moore v. Apfel, 63 F. Supp. 2d 905, 907-08 (N.D. Ill. 1999) ("The Commissioner does not object to the hourly fee requested, but objects to Plaintiff's request for nine hours spent on preparing a three-page reply brief, because it only took 17 hours for Plaintiff's counsel to write her 15-page main brief. This argument is frivolous. In order to prepare a reply brief, an attorney must review the cases and arguments cited in the response brief and decide what to include in a reply brief. A short and persuasive document often times takes more time to prepare than a long and rambling document. See e.g., President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. Although Plaintiff's reply brief is not in the category of the Gettysburg Address, this Court rejects the notion that counsel should be compensated on a per page basis. The Court has once again reviewed the reply brief and finds that the time spent was reasonable.").

IX. Scope

Richmond v. Chater, 94 F.3d 263 (7th Cir. 1996) (FindLaw).

Curtis v. Shalala, 12 F.3d 97 (7th Cir. 1993).

X. Party Entitled to Award

The agency sometimes argues that a court should make the plaintiff himself or herself the payee of an EAJA award.  See Venegas v. Mitchell, 495 U.S. 82 (1990).  Of course the plaintiff has no ultimate right to an EAJA award.  Unless a court orders an EAJA award to a plaintiff's attorney, an EAJA award is sent to the plaintiff's attorney with the plaintiff as the payee.   To avoid this, obtain an assignment from the plaintiff.  See Thomas E. Bush, II Social Security Disability Practice (2d ed. 1999), 786. 

XI. Contacting the Agency for Payment

Thomas E. Bush, II Social Security Disability Practice (2d ed. 1999), 792. 

XII. Connect Message

 

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