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Ibrahim v. Barr

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

April 4, 2019

Abdullahi Ahmed Ibrahim, Petitioner,
William P. Barr, Attorney General, Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary, Department of Homeland Security, Ronald Vitiello, Acting Director, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Peter Berg, Director, St. Paul Field Office, Immigration and Customs Enforcement; Joel Brott, Sheriff, Sherburne County, Respondents.


          Paul A. Magnuson United States District Court Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Petitioner's Motion for Attorney's Fees and Costs. (Docket No. 21.) Ibrahim seeks fees and costs in the amount of $4, 736.90 pursuant to the Equal Access to Justice Act (“EAJA”). 28 U.S.C. § 2412. For the following reasons, the Motion is granted.


         The full factual and procedural background of this matter is set forth in Magistrate Judge Becky R. Thorson's Report and Recommendation (Docket No. 17) and will not be repeated here. In brief, Ibrahim is a native and citizen of Somalia who has been in various stages of removal proceedings since 2010. In February 2018, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) took Ibrahim into custody to execute his removal to Somalia. Since that time, Ibrahim has filed several motions, appeals, and petitions for review, some of which are still pending before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Ibrahim filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 with this Court on July 5, 2018, challenging his continued detention pending removal. (Docket No. 1.) Based on the Report and Recommendation of Judge Thorson, this Court ordered that Ibrahim be released from ICE custody because there was no significant likelihood of his removal in the foreseeable future. (Docket No. 19.) Once the judgment became final, this Motion followed.


         28 U.S.C. § 2412(a) authorizes the Court to award costs to a prevailing party in litigation against the United States. However, the portion of the EAJA allowing for an award of attorney's fees contains additional requirements:

[A] court shall award to a prevailing party other than the United States fees and other expenses . . . incurred by that party in any civil action . . . brought by or against the United States in any court having jurisdiction of that action, unless the court finds that the position of the United States was substantially justified or that special circumstances make an award unjust.

Id. § 2412(d)(1)(A). Ibrahim bears the burden to establish that he was a “prevailing party” under the EAJA. Huett v. Bowen, 873 F.2d 1153, 1155 (8th Cir.1989). Once prevailing party status is established, “[t]he government bears the burden of showing that its position was substantially justified.” Bah v. Cangemi, 548 F.3d 680, 684 (8th Cir. 2008). If the Court finds both that Ibrahim is the prevailing party and the Government's position was not substantially justified, then an award of fees and related expenses is required.

         The Government argues that attorney's fees and costs are not warranted because (1) Ibrahim's Motion is untimely; (2) Ibrahim is not a prevailing party; (3) the Government's position was substantially justified; and (4) “special circumstances” make an award of attorney's fees unjust.

         1. Timeliness

         Ibrahim's Motion is timely. Under the EAJA, a party seeking fees must file its motion within 30 days of “final judgment.” 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(B). The EAJA defines “final judgment” as a judgment that is “final and not appealable.” Id. § 2412(d)(2)(G). The parties agree that the appeals period for this matter was 60 days. This period excludes the day of the event that triggered it, and if the last day of the period is a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, the period continues to run until the end of the next business day. Fed.R.Civ.P. 6(a)(1)(C). This Court entered its Order on November 13, 2018. Therefore, the appeals period began on November 14, 2018. The 60-day period ended on January 13, 2019. Because that day was a Sunday, the appeals period ran until the end of January 14, 2019, pursuant to Rule 6. On that date, the appeals period ended and this Court's Order became a final judgment. Ibrahim filed this Motion on February 13, 2019, exactly 30 days after January 14. Therefore, the Motion is timely.

         2. Prevailing Party

         Fees and costs under the EAJA are only available to prevailing parties. A prevailing party is “one who has been awarded some relief by a court, ” or more specifically, relief that alters “the legal relationship of the parties.” Buckhannon Bd. & Care Home, Inc. v. W.Va. Dep't of Health & Human Res., 532 U.S. 598, 603, 605 (2001). The Government contends that Ibrahim should not qualify as a prevailing party because the case was remanded to ICE, which does not qualify as a judgment or decree on the merits.

         The Government misunderstands the nature of this matter. The Government implies that it released Ibrahim voluntarily, ignoring the fact that it was ordered to do so. (See Resp.'s Opp. Mem. (Docket No. 25) at 2.) The Court granted Ibrahim's petition for writ of habeas corpus, and the matter was only remanded to ICE to establish appropriate conditions for Ibrahim's supervised release. The Government argues that Ibrahim “was simply returned to the position in which he found himself prior to his being lawfully detained to effect his removal.” (Id. at 3.) However, this is precisely the relief Ibrahim sought. (See Pet'r's Reply (Docket No. 16) 4-5, n.2.) Ibrahim is now on supervised release awaiting the resolution of his multiple appeals. Thus, the Order “materially alter[ed] the legal relationship between the ...

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