Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Moss v. Colvin

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division, Dayton

April 11, 2017

SHENEQUA MOSS, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          Sharon L. Ovington, Magistrate Judge

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS [1]

          Sharon L. Ovington United States Magistrate Judge

         I. Introduction

         The Court previously entered Judgment in favor of Plaintiff and remanded this social security case to the Social Security Administration for further proceedings. (Doc. #s 18, 19). The case is presently before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion For Attorney Fees Under The Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d) (Doc. #23), the Commissioner's Response (Doc. #24), Plaintiff's Reply (Doc. #25), and the record as a whole. Plaintiff seeks an award of attorney fees under the EAJA in the total amount of $7, 007.83. The Government opposes the proposed EAJA award on the ground that its decision to defend Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Elizabeth A. Motta's non-disability decision was reasonable and, therefore, substantially justified.

         II. Discussion

         A. Substantial Justification

         “The purpose of the EAJA is to remove financial obstacles to challenging unreasonable government action. The EAJA provision for fees specifies that ‘a court shall award' attorney fees and other expenses to a prevailing party, including a Social Security claimant, in civil litigation against the United States government, ‘unless the court finds that the position of the United States was substantially justified or that special circumstances make an award unjust.'” Minor v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 826 F.3d 878, 881 (6th Cir. 2016) (quoting, in part, 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(A)) (other citations omitted). “The government's position is substantially justified if it is ‘justified in substance or in the main'-that is, justified to a degree that could satisfy a reasonable person. Glenn v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 763 F.3d 494, 498 (6th Cir. 2014) (quoting, in part, Pierce v. Underwood, 487 U.S. 552, 565 (1988); see Howard v. Barnhart, 376 F.3d 551, 554 (6th Cir. 2004).

         The Commissioner carries the burden to establish that her litigation position- supporting ALJ Motta's decision-was substantially justified. Delong v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 748 F.3d 723, 725-26 (6th Cir. 2014). The Commissioner may meet this burden by showing that her support of ALJ Motta's decision rested on “‘a reasonable basis in both law and fact.'” Glenn, 763 F.3d at 498 (quoting Pierce, 487 U.S. at 565).

         The Commissioner asserts that the EAJA is not an automatic fee-shifting statute and that a prevailing party is not presumed to be entitled to an EAJA award. These assertions are correct in the sense that a prevailing party's success in obtaining “‘a remand alone is not a proper basis for the allowance of fees and expenses under the EAJA.'” Id. at 726 (6th Cir. 2014) (brackets and citation omitted). Yet, upon deeper reflection, the lack of either automatic fee-shifting or a presumed entitlement to EAJA fees is minimally significant for two reasons. First, the Commissioner carries the burden to establish that her decision to support ALJ Motta's non-disability determination was substantially justified. See id. at 725-26. The absence of automatic fee-shifting or presumed entitlement to EAJA fees does not change or minimize her burden. Second, Magistrate Judge Stephanie K. Bowman has cogently and convincingly concluded:

Precedent … supports the exercise of discretion in favor of award of EAJA fees in the vast majority of social security cases involving remands in the Sixth Circuit. See, e.g., Turner v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 680 F.3d 721, 724 (6th Cir. 2012) (discussing policy reasons in favor of the award of EAJA fees based upon remand orders alone); see also, Glenn v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 763 F.3d 494, 499 (6th Cir. 2014) (reversing denial of EAJA fees as abuse of discretion where remand was based on substantive rather than procedural error, including a selective consideration of the evidence and errors that “were plainly contrary to law.”); Bass v. Colvin, 120 F.Supp.3d 697 (N.D. Ohio 2015) (Commissioner's position opposing remand not substantially justified due to error-ridden RFC determination, notwithstanding court's rejection of some errors); Cowart v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 795 F.Supp.2d 667, 670 (W.D. Mich. 2011) (rejecting argument that based upon statement in opinion remanding that “there is medical evidence in this record that might support a finding of non-disability, ” because “to accept the Commissioner's reasoning would be inconsistent with the rule that a plaintiff who wins a Sentence Four remand is a ‘prevailing party, ' and thus entitled to EAJA fees, without regard to whether he or she ultimately prevails on remand.”); Pyatt v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 771 F.Supp.2d 891, 898-902 (S.D. Ohio 2011) (finding Commissioner's defense of clear procedural error, and alternative contention that the error was harmless, was not substantially justified).

Stacey v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 2016 WL 3079130, at *4 (S.D. Ohio 2016), Report & Recommendation adopted by Stacey v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 2016 WL 3058298 (S.D. Ohio 2016) (Beckwith, D.J.).

         The Commissioner contends that her decision to support ALJ Motta's decision was substantially justified because this Court agreed with one of the Commissioner's main arguments-namely, that substantial evidence supported the ALJ's weighing of treating physician Dr. Shaw's opinions. This contention lacks merit. The Commissioner's success in convincing both the undersigned judicial officer and District Judge Rice to accept the ALJ's assessment of Dr. Shaw's opinion falls short of establishing substantial justification. “Obviously, the fact that one other court agreed or disagreed with the Government does not establish whether its position was substantially justified.” Pierce v. Underwood, 487 U.S. 552, 569 (1988); see Howard v. Barnhart, 376 F.3d 551, 554 (6th Cir. 2004).

         The Commissioner also contends that although the Court found error in the ALJ's assessment of Plaintiff's credibility, the presence of this single error supports the Government's assertion of substantial justification. This contention understates the flaws District Judge Rice identified in the ALJ's decision. District Judge Rice found that the ALJ did not reasonably consider Plaintiff's daily activities. He explained:

[A]lthough ALJ Motta purported to incorporate some of Plaintiff's subjective complaints of depression and anxiety into Plaintiff's RFC, Doc. #6-2, PAGEID #54, she did not adequately explain how she incorporated ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.