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Bernoudy v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Nevada

April 19, 2018

JAMESETTA BERNOUDY, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Defendant.

         (Pltf.'s Motion for Attorney Fees - ECF No. 24)

          ORDER

          MIRANDA M. DU UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. SUMMARY

         Before the Court is Plaintiff Jamesetta Bernoudy's Motion for Attorney Fees (“Motion”). (ECF No. 24.) Defendant[1] filed a response (ECF No. 25), and Plaintiff filed a reply (ECF No. 26).

         For the reasons discussed herein, the Motion is denied.

         II. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

         This is an appeal of a 2014 decision of a Social Security Administration (“SSA”) Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). The following facts are taken from Plaintiff's Motion for Remand (ECF No. 16) unless otherwise indicated.

         On May 10, 2010, Plaintiff filed an application for social security income (“SSI”), alleging that she had a disability that began on July 2, 2006. On an initial determination issued September 13, 2010, the SSA Commissioner denied Plaintiff's application. On October 14, 2010, Plaintiff requested reconsideration of the Commissioner's decision. On, on December 15, 2010, the Commissioner denied reconsideration. Plaintiff requested a de novo hearing before an ALJ on January 28, 2011. The ALJ conducted a hearing on December 8, 2011. The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on December 19, 2011. The SSA Appeals Council granted Plaintiff's request for review and remanded to the ALJ on July 23, 2013. The same ALJ conducted the hearing on remand on October 8, 2013. Once again, on January 8, 2014, the ALJ published an unfavorable decision (“2014 ALJ Decision”). On February 3, 2014, Plaintiff requested a review of the 2014 ALJ Decision with the SSA Appeals Council. The Appeals Council denied the request on May 15, 2015, making this the date upon which “the decision by the ALJ became the final decision of the Commissioner.” (ECF No. 16 at 4 (citing to 42 U.S.C. § 405(h)).)

         Plaintiff initiated this action on July 8, 2015, proceeding in forma pauperis but not pro se. (ECF No. 1.) The Complaint was filed on October 14, 2015 (ECF No. 3), and the First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) was filed on November 9, 2015 (ECF No. 5.) Plaintiff moved to remand the case, but the parties subsequently reached a stipulation to remand the case “for further administrative action pursuant to section 205(g) of the Social Security Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), sentence four.” (ECF No. 22 at 2.) Judgment was entered in favor of Plaintiff on May 6, 2016. (ECF No. 23.)

         III. DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff seeks attorney fees in the amount of $4, 722.06 under the Equal Access to Justice Act (“EAJA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(A), arguing that the Commissioner was not substantially justified in its position taken both in the underlying administrative proceeding and in this Court. (ECF No. 24 at 6-7.) The Commissioner responds that the position taken during the underlying administrative proceeding was appropriate in light of a lack of controlling case law and that, once the Commissioner became aware that intervening case law, specifically Rounds v. Commissioner of Social Security Administration, 807 F.3d 996 (9th Cir. 2015), controlled the issues in this appeal, the Commissioner stipulated to remand. (ECF No. 25 at 7.) The Court agrees with the Commissioner and finds that fees are not warranted.

         A. Legal Framework

The EAJA provides:
Except as otherwise specifically provided by statute, a court shall award to a prevailing party other than the United States fees and other expenses, in addition to any costs awarded . . . incurred by that party in any civil action . . ., including proceedings for judicial review of agency action, brought by or against the United States in any court having jurisdiction of that action, unless the court finds that the ...

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