This Allows Offsetting for Client’s Debts to Government.
In our past posts of October 1, 2009 and February 25, 2010, we explored the United States Supreme Court’s grant of certiorari in and oral argument with respect to Astrue v. Ratliff, Case No. 08-1322 (U.S. June 14, 2010), which concerned who owned payments in a Social Security benefit attorney’s fees award.
Ratliff held that an attorney’s fees award to a successful Social Security claimant under 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(A) is payable to the litigant, not the litigant’s attorney. So, that means the award is subject to an offset for any pre-existing debts which litigant owes to the Government. The high court also found its result was buttressed by cases interpreting the federal civil rights fee-shifting statute, 42 U.S.C. § 1988, which contains virtually identical language to that employed in § 2412(d)(1)(A).