June 17, 2019

Tenth Circuit: Buckhannon Interpretation of “Prevailing Party” Applies to EAJA Claims

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals published its opinion in Iqbal v. Holder, Jr. on Tuesday, August 21, 2012.

Shahid Iqbal, a citizen of Pakistan, applied for naturalization with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Because of an ongoing background check, USCIS did not act on his application within 120 days after he took the naturalization examination. Iqbal petitioned the district court pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1447(b) and, among other relief, asked the court “to review his application, determine that he met the citizenship requirements, grant him naturalization, and issue a Certificate of Citizenship.” USCIS denied Iqbal’s petition because he had not met the physical presence requirements and moved to dismiss his petition as moot, or for the court to decline jurisdiction. The district court held the filing of the § 1447(b) vested exclusive jurisdiction in it and then remanded the matter to USCIS. In its remand order, the court stated, “The USCIS may determine how to best proceed on remand. Nothing in this order is intended to require the USCIS to change its earlier determination of the merits of the application.”

Iqbal filed a motion for attorney fees and expenses under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), 28 U.S.C. § 2412, which mandates an award to a prevailing party other than the United States. The Tenth Circuit affirmed the denial of an EAJA award because Iqbal was not a prevailing party under 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(A). The district court had not ordered the USCIS to make any determination by a date certain or to grant Iqbal naturalization. In making this determination, the Tenth Circuit specifically adopted the interpretation of “prevailing party” in Buckhannon Board & Care Home, Inc. v. West Virginia Dep’t of Health & Human Resources, 532 U.S. 598 (2001) and held that Buckhannon’s interpretation applies to EAJA claims. To be considered a prevailing party, there must be some judicial imprimatur on a legal change between the parties; a voluntary change is not enough.

Tenth Circuit: Equal Access to Justice Act Requires Parties to Prevail Against the United States to Be Awarded Attorney’s Fees

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in United States v. Poche on Tuesday, May 10, 2011.

The Tenth Circuit reversed the district court’s decision. Petitioner United States appeals the district court’s award of attorney’s fees and costs to Respondents. The United States contends that its sovereign immunity divested the district court of jurisdiction to award fees and costs against the United States, and that, even if the district court had jurisdiction, the amount awarded constitutes an abuse of discretion. The parties agree that the potentially applicable waiver of immunity is found in the Equal Access to Justice Act, which provides: “Except as otherwise specifically provided by statute, a judgment for costs . . . may be awarded to the prevailing party in any civil action brought by or against the United States.” However, in this situation Respondents were not the prevailing party against the United States, and therefore the waiver is not applicable to allow jurisdiction to award attorney’s fees.

Case Law: Tenth Circuit Opinions, 5/12/10

The Tenth Circuit issued three published opinions and three unpublished opinions Wednesday, described below.


In Fruitt v. Astrue, the Court determined that local rule W.D. Okla. L.R. 54.1 for the United States District Court, Western District of Oklahoma, does not establish a time limit for an Equal Access to Justice Act cost request.

In Phillips v. Workman, the Court reversed Phillips’ death sentence and conviction for first-degree malice aforethought as the trial court’s  denial of his request that the jury be instructed on the non-capital lesser-included offense of second-degree depraved mind murder was contrary to Beck v. Alabama, 447 U.S. 625 (1980).

In WildEarth Guardians v. National Park Service, the Court found the District Court erred when it denied Safari Club’s motion to intervene in a challenge of the National Park Service’s proposal to reduce the elk population in Rocky Mountain National Park, determining it “has a substantial interest in the district court proceedings and that its interest might be impaired as a result of the litigation.”


Orellana-Morales v. Holder, Jr.

Wu v. Holder, Jr.

Vianzon v. City of Aurora