justified. Plaintiff disputes these contentions.
A. Pro se litigants
The question whether a pro se litigant is entitled to recovery under the Equal Access to Justice Act has not previously been addressed by this Circuit. Entitlement under similar attorneys fee provisions have been the subject of several recent cases, however. Attorney's fees have been awarded to pro se litigants in Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) cases pursuant to the fee-shifting provisions in that statute. Cox v. United States Department of Justice, 195 U.S. App. D.C. 189, 601 F.2d 1, 5-6 (D.C. Cir. 1979). See also Cuneo v. Rumsfeld, 180 U.S. App. D.C. 184, 553 F.2d 1360 (D.C. Cir. 1977). By contrast, pro se litigants have been found not to be entitled to attorney's fees under 42 U.S.C. § 1988, and by implication under 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(k). Lawrence v. Staats, 586 F. Supp. 1375 (D.D.C 1984). After careful review of the applicable attorney fee statute and the relevant case law, we conclude that plaintiff is entitled to receive an attorney's fee award under EAJA because he is an attorney, despite his pro se litigant status.
Our interpretation of the statute must begin with the language of the provision itself. Consumer Product Safety Commission v. GTE Sylvania Inc., 447 U.S. 102, 108, 64 L. Ed. 2d 766, 100 S. Ct. 2051 (1980). "Fees", other than expert witness fees, are expressly defined in the statute as "reasonable attorney fees." This choice of terminology, standing alone, has led some courts to conclude that Congress did not intend for non-attorney pro se litigants to recover under this provision. See Merrell v. Block, 809 F.2d 639 (9th Cir. 1987); Crooker v. Environmental Protection Agency, 763 F.2d 16 (1st Cir. 1985). In Cox, however, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia indicated that "the fact that the [plaintiff was] not an attorney [did] not disqualify him from receiving an award of attorney's fees" under the FOIA fee-shifting statute. 601 F.2d at 6.
We refrain from deciding whether pro se litigants generally are entitled to recover fees, in addition to costs, under the EAJA. The issue before us is more narrow. We limit our inquiry to whether pro se attorneys are entitled to recovery in the manner plaintiff has requested.
It is instructive to look to Congress' purpose in enacting the attorney's fee provision of the EAJA. The central objective of the EAJA, and of Section 2412(d)(1)(A) in particular, was to "encourage relatively impecunious private parties to challenge unreasonable or oppressive governmental behavior by relieving such parties of the fear of incurring large litigation expenses." Spencer v. N.L.R.B., 229 U.S. App. D.C. 225, 712 F.2d 539, 549-50 (D.C. Cir. 1983, cert. denied, 466 U.S. 936, 80 L. Ed. 2d 457, 104 S. Ct. 1908 (1984). Achievement of that end, it was believed, would promote three more general goals:
First, Congress hoped to provide relief to the victims of abusive governmental conduct, to enable them to vindicate their rights without assuming enormous financial burdens. Second, it sought to reduce the incidence of such abuse; it anticipated that the prospect of paying sizeable awards of attorneys' fees when they overstepped their authority and were challenged in court would induce administrators to behave more responsibly in the future. Third, by exposing a greater number of governmental actions to adversarial testing, Congress hoped to refine the administration of federal law -- to foster greater precision, efficiency and fairness in the interpretation of statutes and in the formulation and enforcement of governmental regulations.