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5:12-cv-02478-TLW Date Filed 01/24/14 Entry Number 37 Page 1 of 2

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF SOUTH CAROLINA

ORANGEBURG DIVISION


Joseph Thomas,

PLAINTIFF

v.

Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of
the Social Security Administration,

DEFENDANT

C/A No. 5:12-cv-02478-TLW

Order





On December 18, 2013, Plaintiff filed a motion for attorney’s fees pursuant to the Equal

Access to Justice Act (EAJA), 28 U.S.C. § 2412, on the basis that the position taken by the

Commissioner was not substantially justified. (Doc. #35.) The motion seeks reimbursement for

counsel’s representation in this case in the amount of $5,806.08 for fees (31.5 hours at $184.32

per hour). Plaintiff also filed an assignment of any fee award to his attorney. On January 3,

2014, the Commissioner filed a response consenting to Plaintiff’s motion and stating that it

would accept the assignment and pay the fees directly to Plaintiff’s attorney if it is shown that, at

the time of this Order, Plaintiff owed no debt to the government that would be subject to offset.

(Doc. #36.)



Under the EAJA, a court shall award attorney’s fees to a prevailing party in certain civil

actions against the United States unless the court finds that the government’s position was

substantially justified or that special circumstances make an award unjust. 28 U.S.C.

§ 2412(d)(1)(A). “The award is mandatory unless the government can demonstrate that its

position was substantially justified.” EEOC v. Clay Printing Co., 13 F.3d 813, 814 (4th Cir.

1994) (emphasis in original). The question is whether there was arguably substantial evidence to

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5:12-cv-02478-TLW Date Filed 01/24/14 Entry Number 37 Page 2 of 2

support the Commissioner’s position, not whether there was some evidence to support the

position. Anderson v. Heckler, 756 F.2d 1011, 1013 (4th Cir. 1984). This standard is met if

there is a “genuine dispute.” Pierce v. Underwood, 487 U.S. 552, 565 (1988).



An award of fees or costs under the EAJA is payable to the party rather than to the

attorney. Astrue v. Ratliff, 130 S. Ct. 2521, 2524 (2010). However, nothing in Ratliff divests the

Commissioner of its discretion to directly pay the party’s attorney where there is no debt owed to

the government or funds remain after satisfaction of such debt, and the party has assigned the

award to counsel. See, e.g., Walker v. Astrue, No. 2:09-cv-960-TFM, 2011 WL 1297744, at *2

(M.D. Ala. Apr. 5, 2011) (“While Ratliff generally confirms that attorney’s fee awards under the

EAJA are payable to the ‘prevailing party’—the litigant—and are thus subject to offset any debt

owed by such litigant to the United States, the opinion does not explicitly reject the practice of

awarding fees to attorneys where the litigant has assigned the right to receive such fees

directly.”).



After careful consideration of the briefs and materials filed by the parties, the Court

concludes that the Government’s position was not substantially justified. Accordingly,

Plaintiff’s motion for attorney’s fees is GRANTED in the amount of $5,806.08. The

Commissioner may pay the award directly to Plaintiff’s attorney if it is shown that, at the time of

this Order, Plaintiff owed no debt to the government that would be subject to offset.



IT IS SO ORDERED.

January 24, 2014
Columbia, South Carolina

s/ Terry L. Wooten
Terry L. Wooten
Chief United States District Judge







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