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Bouvier v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Rhode Island

April 8, 2013

ROBERT BOUVIER, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant

For Robert Bouvier, Plaintiff: David B. Green, LEAD ATTORNEY, Green & Greenberg, Providence, RI.

For Michael J Astrue, Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant: Michael P. Iannotti, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY OFFICE, Providence, RI.

OPINION

Page 261

John J. McConnell, Jr., United States District Judge.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Robert Bouvier seeks attorney's fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) (ECF No. 15) after this Court issued judgment in his favor (ECF No. 14) concerning his application for Social Security disability benefits. The Commissioner objects to an award of fees (ECF No. 16) claiming that she was " substantially justified" in defending the case. This Court finds that the Commissioner has failed in her burden of proving that her position was substantially justified and therefore GRANTS Mr. Bouvier's motion for attorney's fees.

The EAJA provides that " the government shall pay the attorneys' fees of parties that prevail against it in civil litigation, [1] if the Court finds that the government's

Page 262

position was not 'substantially justified.'" McDonald v. Secretary of HHS, 884 F.2d 1468, 1472 (1st Cir. 1989). The burden of establishing such justification is on the government. Id. at 1475 (citing United States v. Yoffe, 775 F.2d 447, 450 (1st Cir. 1985)).

There have been many judicial opinions setting forth the definition of " substantially justified," best summarized by the First Circuit as follows:

An action is " substantially justified" if " it has a reasonable basis in law and fact." [ Pierce v. Underwood, 487 U.S. 552, 566 n.2, 108 S.Ct. 2541, 101 L.Ed.2d 490 (1988)]. The government's conduct must be " justified to a degree that could satisfy a reasonable person." Id. at 565; see also [ Schock v. United States, 254 F.3d 1, 5 (1st Cir. 2001)]. The government need only have a " reasonable basis both in law and fact for its position." De Allende v. Baker, 891 F.2d 7, 12 (1st Cir. 1989); see also United States v. Yoffe, 775 F.2d 447, 449 (1st Cir. 1985).

Aronov v. Napolitano, 562 F.3d 84, 94 (1st Cir. 2009).

This Court is required to make an independent judgment as to whether an award is warranted. The answer is not " wedded to the underlying judgment on the merits," Federal Election Comm'n v. Rose, 806 F.2d 1081, 1087, 256 U.S. App. D.C. 395 (D.C. Cir. 1981), " [t]hough both roads may in a given instance lead to Rome, that will not always be the case." Sierra Club v. Secretary of the Army, 820 F.2d 513, 517 (1st Cir. 1987).

After a review of the agency's action and having studied and reviewed the entire agency record in this case, this Court finds that the Commissioner has failed to meet her burden to ...


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