ASTRUE v. RATLIFF

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
08-1322
Petitioner 
Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security
Respondent 
Catherine G. Ratliff
Advocates
(Assistant to the Solicitor General, Department of Justice, for the petitioner)
(for the respondent)
Term:
Facts of the Case 

An attorney that successfully represented two claimants in suits to receive benefits from the Social Security Administration moved for award of fees and costs under the Equal Access to Justice Act in the South Dakota federal district court. The district court granted the motion but offset the attorney's award to pay off debts her clients owed the federal government. On appeal, the Eighth Circuit held that attorney's fees cannot be used to satisfy a clients' pre-existing debt to the United States. The court reasoned that fees awarded under the Equal Access to Justice Act belong to the prevailing party's attorney and not to the prevailing party.

Question 

Is the "award of fees and other expenses" under the Equal Access to Justice Act payable to the prevailing party rather than the prevailing party's attorney, and, therefore, may be used to satisfy that party's pre-existing debt to the United States?

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ASTRUE v. RATLIFF. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 25 November 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2009/2009_08_1322>.
ASTRUE v. RATLIFF, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2009/2009_08_1322 (last visited November 25, 2014).
"ASTRUE v. RATLIFF," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed November 25, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2009/2009_08_1322.