Melkonyan v. Sullivan

LOCATION:Residence of Ellis Gregory

DOCKET NO.: 90-5538
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1990-1991)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 501 US 89 (1991)
ARGUED: Apr 15, 1991
DECIDED: Jun 10, 1991

Brian Wolfman – on behalf of the Petitioner
Clifford M. Sloan – on behalf of the Respondent

Facts of the case


Media for Melkonyan v. Sullivan

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – April 15, 1991 in Melkonyan v. Sullivan

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – June 10, 1991 in Melkonyan v. Sullivan

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court in No. 90-5538, Melkonyan against Sullivan will be announced by Justice O’Connor.

Sandra Day O’Connor:

This case comes to us on writ of certiorari from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The case arises from petitioner Melkonyan’s application for Social Security disability benefits.

The petitioner’s application was denied by the Secretary of Health and Human Services on the grounds that the petitioner was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act.

Petitioner, then filed a civil action pursuant to 42 United States Code Section 405(g) which is a statute authorizing judicial review of adverse determinations of Social Security claims.

While the case was pending, the petitioner filed a new application for benefits and supplied additional evidence of disability.

Petitioner’s second application for benefits was approved by the Secretary.

The Secretary then asked the District Court to remand the pending civil case to the agency for reconsideration in light of the new evidence.

With petitioner’s agreement, the court issued an order remanding the case to the Secretary for all further proceedings.

On remand, the first decision of the Secretary was vacated and petitioner was found disabled as of his original application date.

More than a year later, the petitioner applied to the District Court for attorney’s fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act.

The acronym for which is EAJA.

That Act authorizes an award of fees and expenses to a party prevailing against the United States in a civil action upon application made within 30 days of final judgment and reaction.

The District Court denied the request on the ground that the Secretary’s position in the litigation had been substantially justified.

The court of Appeals affirmed but on the basis that the petition was untimely because it was not filed within 30 days of the final judgment.

According to the Court of Appeals, the Secretary’s determination on the administrative remand a year earlier, granting the requested relief was the final judgment that triggered the EAJA filing deadline.

We granted certiorari to decide whether an administrative determination can be a final judgment within the meaning of the Equal Access to Justice Act.

In an opinion filed with the Clerk today, we unanimously hold for reasons explained in the opinion that the required final judgment for purposes of the Equal Access to Justice Act must be rendered by a court of law rather than by an administrative agency.

It is not clear on this record whether petitioner is entitled to the attorney’s fees.

Accordingly, we vacate the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remand the case for further proceedings.