United States District Court, D. Minnesota
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
A. Magnuson United States District Court Judge
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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