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SCARBOROUGH v. PRINCIPI, SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS - 541 U.S. 401 (2004)

SCARBOROUGH v. PRINCIPI, SECRETARY OF
VETERANS AFFAIRS

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FEDERAL CIRCUIT

No. 02-1657. Argued February 23, 2004--Decided May 3, 2004

The Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) authorizes the payment of attorney's fees to a prevailing party in an action against the United States absent a showing by the Government that its position in the underlying litigation "was substantially justified." 28 U. S. C. §2412(d)(1)(A). Section 2412(d)(1)(B) sets a deadline of 30 days after final judgment for the filing of a fee application and directs that the application include: (1) a showing that the applicant is a "prevailing party"; (2) a showing that the applicant is "eligible to receive an award"; and (3) a statement of "the amount sought, including an itemized statement from any attorney ... stating the actual time expended and the rate" charged. Section 2412(d)(1)(B)'s second sentence further requires the applicant to "allege that the position of the United States was not substantially justified."

Petitioner Scarborough prevailed before the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) in an action for disability benefits against respondent Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Scarborough's counsel filed a timely application for attorney's fees and costs pursuant to §2412(d), showing that Scarborough was the prevailing party in the underlying litigation and was eligible to receive an award. Counsel also stated the total amount sought, and itemized hours and rates of work. But counsel failed initially to allege, in addition, that "the position of the United States was not substantially justified." §2412(d)(1)(B). The Secretary moved to dismiss the application on the ground that the CAVC lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to award fees because Scarborough's counsel had failed to make the required no-substantial-justification allegation. Scarborough's counsel immediately filed an amended application adding that allegation. In the interim between the initial filing and the amendment, however, the 30-day fee application filing period had expired. For that sole reason, the CAVC dismissed Scarborough's fee application.


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