Scarborough v. Principi

Attorney Fees
Docket Number: 
Case Description: 

In this case, we represented a party who had prevailed in a lawsuit against the government but had been denied attorneys’ fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) because the application for fees filed by his attorney did not contain an allegation that the government’s position was not “substantially justified.” Fees under EAJA are only available when the government’s position is not substantially justified. In the lower court, the government successfully argued that the requirement that the party seeking fees allege lack of substantial justification in the initial fee application was “jurisdictional” and that the application could not later be amended to claim that the government’s position was not substantially justified.

Because the lower court’s decision conflicted with other federal appellate decisions as well as with several decisions of the Supreme Court, we persuaded the Supreme Court to grant a petition for certiorari and to review the case on the merits. We served as principal counsel for the petitioner in preparing the briefs on the merits and presenting argument to the Court.

Question presented:

May someone who won a suit against the government and applied for repayment of attorney's fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act amend his application to assert that the government's position in the suit was not "substantially justified"?

On May 3, 2004, the Supreme Court decided the case in favor of our client. See 541 U.S. 401. The Court fully accepted our argument that the requirement that a fee application allege lack of substantial justification was not jurisdictional and that an application may be amended after the time limit for filing it to make the necessary allegation.