Kornhauser v. Comm'r of Social Security, No. 11-10291 (11th Cir. 2012)Annotate this Case
Plaintiff-Appellant Valinda Kornhauser filed suit to challenge the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security that denied her claim for disability benefits. The District Court referred the case to a Magistrate Judge for a report and recommendation ("R&R"). After receiving and considering memoranda on the matter, the Magistrate Judge issued an R&R recommending that the District Court vacate the Commissioner's decision and remand the case to the Commissioner for further proceedings. In his R&R, the Magistrate Judge, in addition to explaining why Plaintiff was entitled to a vacatur, observed that the memorandum her attorney had submitted failed to comply with Middle District of Florida Local Rule 1.05(a). The non-compliance, according to the Magistrate Judge, consisted of "smaller margins than authorized" by the rule and "footnotes . . . smaller than ten-point type." In a footnote to this observation, he stated: "These intentional violations would justify striking the memorandum. However, this sanction would unfairly punish the plaintiff. Consequently, I propose that, when plaintiff's counsel seeks attorney's fees, that the typical request for a cost-of-living increase be denied." Following the entry of judgment, Plaintiff petitioned the District Court for an award of attorney's fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act ("EAJA"). The parties stipulated to the amount of attorney fees, but after its consideration of the petition, the Magistrate Judge issue an R&R recommending that the district court award a lower amount in fees as have been stipulated because of Plaintiff's brief being submitted with small margins and unacceptable font sizing. Plaintiff's attorney filed an objection to the R&R, asking the district court not to adopt it because she did not intend to violate the local rule. Finding that the sanction was a reasonable exercise of the Magistrate Judge's disciplinary authority, the district court adopted the R&R with the sanction. Plaintiff appealed the imposition of the sanction. Upon review, the Eleventh Circuit vacated the sanction, finding "no procedural rule that sanctions the conduct involved" in this case.