United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Western Division
Ronald D. Jackson, Plaintiff
Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant
Jeffrey J. Helmick United States District Judge.
Ronald Jackson sought judicial review of the
Commissioner's final decision denying his applications
for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security
Income. On January 26, 2017, Magistrate Judge Kathleen Burke
issued her Report and Recommendation recommending the
Commissioner's decision be reversed and remanded for
further proceedings consistent with that opinion. (Doc. No.
17). In the absence of any objections by either side, I
adopted the Report and Recommendation as the order of this
Court. (Doc. Nos. 19 and 20).
matter is now before me on Plaintiff's motion and
application for attorney fees pursuant to the EAJA (Doc. No.
21) and the Defendant's response. (Doc. No. 22). For the
reasons stated below, the Plaintiff's motion is denied.
Motion For Attorney Fees Under The EAJA
the Equal Access to Justice Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2412, a
court shall award a plaintiff attorney fees when the
plaintiff is a prevailing party in a lawsuit against the
government, unless the government's position is
substantially justified or special circumstances would make
an award unjust. 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(A). The
plaintiff may recover “reasonable attorney fees . . .
based upon prevailing market rates for the kind and quality
of services furnished”; an attorney's requested
hourly rate may not exceed $125 per hour “unless the
court determines that an increase in the cost of living or a
special factor . . . justifies a higher fee.” 28 U.S.C.
case, the parties do not dispute the Plaintiff is a
“prevailing party” or that special circumstances
exist which warrant denying relief. See Shalala v.
Schaefer, 509 U.S. 292 (1993); DeLong v.
Commissioner of Social Sec. Admin., 748 F.3d 723, 735
(6th Cir. 2014). The crux of this analysis,
therefore, centers on whether the Defendant's opposing
position was without substantial justification.
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.” Jankovich v. Bowen, 868 F.2d 867, 869
(6th Cir. 1989) (quoting Pierce v.
Underwood, 487 U.S. 552, 565 (1988)).
noted by another court in this district:
A careful distinction must be drawn between a lack of
substantial evidence, which results in remand to the
agency, and lack of substantial justification, which
results in an award of attorney's fees to the prevailing
party in such an action. See Jankovich, 868 F.2d at
870. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals elaborated on this
The government's position “can be justified even
though it is not correct . . ., and it can be substantially
(i.e., for the most part) justified if a reasonable person
could think it correct.” [Pierce v. Underwood, 487
U.S.] at 566 n. 2, 103 S.Ct. 2541. As this court has noted,
“[t]he fact that we f[ind] that the Commissioner's
position was unsupported by substantial evidence does not
foreclose the possibility that the position was substantially
justified. Indeed, Congress did not want the
‘substantially justified' standard to be read to
raise a presumption that the Government position was not
substantially justified simply because it lost the case . .
.” Howard v. Barnhart, 376 F.3d 551, 554
(6thCir. 2004) (internal citations and quotation
Olive v. Commissioner of Social Security, 534
F.Supp.2d 756, 758-59 (N.D. Ohio 2008) (finding the claimant
was a prevailing party but finding the government's
position was substantially justified), citing Noble v.
Barnhart, 230 Fed.Appx. 517, 519 (6th Cir.
2007). (Emphasis in original).
forty-one page Report and Recommendation, the Magistrate
Judge took into account the Plaintiff's procedural
history, personal and vocational evidence, relevant medical
evidence, medical opinion evidence, and testimonial evidence.
Ultimately, she determined the following:
[T]he Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred when
she disregarded the opinion of Jackson's treating
cardiologist that he would need to avoid magnetic fields due
to his implanted defibrillator. Specifically, the ALJ (1)
failed to adequately explain why she did not give controlling
weight to the treating physician's magnetic field
restriction; and (2) erred when she determined, without the
support of vocational expert testimony or any other
substantial evidence, that a magnetic field restriction would
not affect the job base or job numbers identified by the
vocational expert. As a result, the ...