United States District Court, District of Columbia
OPINION AND ORDER
CHRISTOPHER R. COOPER United States District Judge.
reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion for
attorneys' fees and costs is granted in the amount of
2015, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's
(“USDA”) Animal and Plant Health Inspection
Service (“APHIS”) filed an enforcement action
against the owner of the Cricket Hollow Zoo in Manchester,
Iowa. The plaintiff in this case, Animal Legal Defense Fund
(“ALDF”), moved to intervene in that
administrative proceeding but its motion was denied by the
presiding administrative law judge. ALDF then appealed that
decision to the agency's Judicial Officer. The Judicial
Officer denied the appeal on three grounds: first,
that ALDF's “stated interests . . . [were] beyond
the scope of [the] proceeding” and thus its
intervention “would disrupt the orderly conduct of
public business” under section 555(b) of the
Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”);
second, that ALDF was not an “interested
party” as required for intervention under APA section
554(c); and third, that the USDA's Rules of
Practice do not provide for intervention. February 15, 2017
Memorandum Opinion (“Mem. Op.”) at 4.
2016, ALDF filed this lawsuit, arguing that the Judicial
Officer's decision was arbitrary and capricious and
contrary to law under APA section 706(2). The complaint
consisted of two counts. In the first count, ALDF alleged
that the Judicial Officer's interpretation of the
agency's Rules of Practice amounted to a “blanket
prohibition” on third-party participation in
administrative proceedings in violation of sections 554(c)
and 555(b) of the APA. Compl. ¶¶ 90-95. In the
second count, ALDF alleged that it was an “interested
person” under APA section 555(b), and that the Judicial
Officer erred in finding otherwise on the ground that its
participation would disrupt the orderly conduct of public
business. Compl. ¶ 97. ALDF also argued in count two
that the Judicial Officer incorrectly applied the APA's
definition of “party” in concluding that ALDF
could not intervene as an “interested party”
under APA section 554(c). Compl. ¶ 98.
Court granted ALDF's motion for summary judgment in a
February 15, 2017 Memorandum Opinion. The Court rejected the
Judicial Officer's finding that ALDF's interests were
beyond the scope of the proceeding. And because the Judicial
Officer did not otherwise address how ALDF's
participation might impede the proceeding, the Court remanded
the case “for a more thorough consideration of
ALDF's motion in light of the factors relevant to
third-party participation in agency proceedings under [APA]
Section 555(b).” Mem. Op. at 2. ALDF had abandoned its
“interested party” claim under APA section
554(c), and the Court rejected ALDF's argument that the
Judicial Officer's finding constituted an unlawful
blanket prohibition on third-party participation in USDA
proceedings. Mem. Op. at 12-13.
now seeks $20, 359.60 in attorneys' fees and $605 in
costs as a prevailing party in this action, plus an
additional $3, 988.68 in attorneys' fees for time spent
litigating its fee petition.
Equal Access to Justice Act (“EAJA”) directs
courts to award attorneys' fees and expenses to parties
who prevail in civil actions against the United States if the
government's position was not “substantially
justified.” 28 U.S.C. §§ 2412(a)(1),
(d)(1)(A). If the government's position was not
“substantially justified, ” see Role Models
Am., Inc. v. Brownlee, 353 F.3d 962 (D.C. Cir. 2004),
the prevailing party is entitled to a reasonable fee award.
The “most useful starting point for determining the
amount of a reasonable fee, ” Hensley v.
Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983), is the
“lodestar figure, which is the number of hours
reasonably expended multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate,
” Murray v. Weinberger, 741 F.2d 1423, 1427
(D.C. Cir. 1984). However, if a plaintiff prevails on only
some of its claims, a court can adjust the fee award to
reflect the relative degree of the plaintiff's success.
See George Hyman Constr. Co. v. Brooks, 963 F.2d
1532, 1535 (D.C. Cir. 1992).
government acknowledges that ALDF is a prevailing party
within the definition of 28 U.S.C. § 2412(a)(1).
Defendant's Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion for
Attorney's Fees (“Def. Opp.”) at 5. The Court
therefore need not address this requirement.
government argues that ALDF is not eligible for a fee award
because the government's position was
“substantially justified.” Def. Opp. at 5-10. In
order to meet this standard, the government must demonstrate
the reasonableness of both its litigation position and the
agency position being challenged. Role Models Am., Inc.
v. Brownlee, 353 F.3d 962 (D.C. Cir. 2004). A position
is “substantially ...