JUSTICE GINSBURG delivered the opinion of the Court.
The Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA or Act) departs from the general rule that each party to a lawsuit pays his or her own legal fees. See Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. v.
Petitioner Randall C. Scarborough was the prevailing party in an action against the Department of Veterans Affairs for disability benefits. His counsel filed a timely application for fees showing Scarborough's "eligib[ility] to receive an award" and "the amount sought, including [the required] itemized statement." § 2412(d)(1)(B). But counsel failed initially to allege, in addition, that "the position of the United States was not substantially justified." Pointing to that omission, the Government moved to dismiss the fee application. Scarborough's counsel immediately filed an amended application adding that the Government's opposition to the underlying claim for benefits "was not substantially justified." In the interim between the initial filing and the amendment, however, the 30-day fee application filing period had expired. For that sole reason, the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims granted the Government's
Scarborough's petition for certiorari presents this question: May a timely fee application, pursuant to § 2412(d), be amended after the 30-day filing period has run to cure an initial failure to allege that the Government's position in the underlying litigation lacked substantial justification? We hold that a curative amendment is permissible and that Scarborough's fee application, as amended, qualifies for consideration and determination on the merits.
Congress enacted EAJA, Pub. L. 96-481, Tit. II, 94 Stat. 2325, in 1980 "to eliminate the barriers that prohibit small businesses and individuals from securing vindication of their rights in civil actions and administrative proceedings brought by or against the Federal Government." H. R. Rep. No. 96-1005, p. 9; see Congressional Findings and Purposes, 94 Stat. 2325, note following 5 U. S. C. § 504 ("It is the purpose of this title . . . to diminish the deterrent effect of seeking review of, or defending against, governmental action . . . ."). Among other reforms, EAJA amended 28 U.S.C. § 2412, which previously had authorized courts to award costs, but not attorney's fees and expenses, to prevailing parties in civil litigation against the United States. EAJA added two new prescriptions to § 2412 that expressly authorize attorney's fee awards against the Federal Government. First, § 2412(b) made the United States liable for attorney's fees and expenses "to the same extent that any other party would be liable under the common law or under the terms of any statute which specifically provides for such an award." Second, § 2412(d) rendered the Government liable for a prevailing private party's attorney's fees and expenses in cases in which suit would lie only against the United States or an
Congress initially adopted § 2412(d) for a trial period of three years, Pub. L. 96-481, § 204(c); in 1985, Congress substantially reenacted the measure, this time without a sunset provision, Pub. L. 99-80, 99 Stat. 183. See id., § 6(b)(2), 99 Stat. 186. Congress' aim, in converting § 2412(d) from a temporary measure to a permanent one, was "to ensure that certain individuals, partnerships, corporations . . . or other organizations will not be deterred from seeking review of, or defending against, unjustified governmental action because of the expense involved." H. R. Rep. No. 99-120, p. 4.
Section 2412(d) currently provides, in relevant part:
Section 2412(d)(1)(A) thus entitles a prevailing party to fees absent a showing by the Government that its position in the underlying litigation "was substantially justified," while § 2412(d)(1)(B) sets a deadline of 30 days after final judgment for the filing of a fee application and directs that the application shall include: (1) a showing that the applicant is a prevailing party; (2) a showing that the applicant is eligible to receive an award (in Scarborough's case, that the applicant's "net worth did not exceed $2,000,000 at the time the civil action was filed," § 2412(d)(2)(B)); and (3) a statement of the amount sought together with an itemized account of time expended and rates charged. The second sentence of § 2412(d)(1)(B) adds a fourth instruction, requiring the applicant simply to "allege" that the position of the United States was not substantially justified.
On July 9, 1999, petitioner Scarborough, a United States Navy veteran, prevailed before the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) on a claim for disability benefits. App. to Pet. for Cert. 41a-44a. Eleven days later, Scarborough's counsel applied, on Scarborough's behalf, for attorney's fees and costs pursuant to § 2412(d). App. 4-5. Scarborough himself would gain from any fee recovery because his lawyer's statutory contingent fee, ordinarily 20% of the veteran's past-due benefits, 38 U. S. C. § 5904(d)(1), would be reduced dollar for dollar by an EAJA award. See Federal Courts Administration Act of 1992, 106 Stat. 4513, Fee Agreements, note following 28 U. S. C. § 2412; Tr. of Oral Arg. 6.
Again, the Clerk of the CAVC found the application premature, but this time retained it, unfiled, until the time to appeal the CAVC's judgment had expired. The Clerk then filed the fee application and notified the respondent Secretary of Veterans Affairs that his response was due within 30 days. Id., at 10. After receiving and exhausting a 30-day extension of time to respond, the Secretary moved to dismiss the fee application. Id., at 2. The CAVC lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to award fees under § 2412(d), the Secretary maintained, because Scarborough's counsel had failed to allege, within 30 days of the final judgment, "that the position of the United States was not substantially justified," § 2412(d)(1)(B). CAVC Record, Doc. 12, pp. 4-5.
Scarborough's counsel promptly filed an amendment to the fee application, stating in a new paragraph that "the government's defense of the Appellant's claim was not substantially justified." App. 11. Simultaneously, Scarborough opposed the Secretary's motion to dismiss, urging that the omission initially to plead "no substantial justification" could be cured
A year-and-a-half later, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed. 273 F.3d 1087 (2001). EAJA must be construed strictly in favor of the Government, the Court of Appeals stated, because the Act effects a partial waiver of sovereign immunity, rendering the United States liable for attorney's fees when the Government otherwise would not be required to pay. Id., at 1089-1090. In the court's view, "[t]he language of the EAJA statute is plain and unambiguous"; it requires a party seeking fees under § 2412(d) to submit an application, including all enumerated allegations, within the 30-day time limit. Id., at 1090 (citing § 2412(d)(1)(B)). The court acknowledged that the Courts of Appeals for the Third and Eleventh Circuits read § 2412(d)(1)(B) to require only that the fee application be filed within 30 days; those Circuits allow later amendments to perfect the application-content specifications set out in § 2412(d)(1)(B). Id., at 1090-1091 (citing Dunn v. United States, 775 F.2d 99, 104 (CA3 1985) (applicant need not submit within 30 days an itemized statement accounting for the amount sought), and Singleton v. Apfel, 231 F.3d 853, 858 (CA11 2000) (applicant need not allege within 30 days that her net worth did not exceed $2 million or that the Government's position was not substantially justified)).
The Federal Circuit also distinguished its own decision in Bazalo v. West, 150 F.3d 1380 (1998), which had held that an applicant may supplement an EAJA application to cure an initial failure to show eligibility for fees. The applicant in Bazalo had failed to allege and establish, within the 30-day period, that he was a qualified "party" within the meaning of § 2412(d), i. e., that his "net worth did not exceed $2,000,000 at the time the civil action was filed,"
We granted Scarborough's initial petition for a writ of certiorari, vacated the judgment of the Court of Appeals, and remanded the case in light of this Court's decision in Edelman v. Lynchburg College, 535 U.S. 106 (2002). See 536 U.S. 920 (2002). Edelman concerned an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regulation relating to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; the regulation allowed amendment of an employment discrimination charge, timely filed with the EEOC, to add, after the filing deadline had passed, the required, but initially absent, verification. See 42 U. S. C. § 2000e-5(b) (requiring charges to "be in writing under oath or affirmation"). We upheld the regulation. Title VII, we explained, in line with "a long history of practice," 535 U. S., at 116, permitted "relation back" of a verification missing from an original filing, id., at 115-118.
On remand of Scarborough's case to the same Federal Circuit panel, two of the three judges adhered to the panel's unanimous earlier decision and distinguished Edelman. 319 F.3d 1346 (2003). Unlike the civil rights statute in Edelman, the Court of Appeals majority said, a "remedial scheme" in which laypersons often initiate the process, EAJA is directed to attorneys, who do not need "paternalistic protection." 319 F. 3d, at 1353 (internal quotation marks omitted). The Federal Circuit's majority further observed that the two requirements at issue in Edelman—the timely filing of a discrimination charge and the verification of that charge—appear in separate statutory provisions. In contrast, EAJA's 30-day filing deadline and the contents required for a fee application are detailed in the same statutory provision. 319 F. 3d, at 1353. The majority also distinguished Becker v. Montgomery, 532 U.S. 757 (2001), in which
Chief Judge Mayer dissented. The no-substantial-justification allegation, he found, "is akin to the verification requirement of Edelman and the signature requirement of Becker." Id., at 1356. In addition to the pathmarking Edelman and Becker decisions, he regarded this case as "substantially the same case as Bazalo." 319 F. 3d, at 1356. In light of EAJA's purpose "to eliminate the financial disincentive for those who would defend against unjustified governmental action and thereby deter it," Chief Judge Mayer concluded, "it is apparent that Congress did not intend the EAJA application process to be an additional deterrent to the vindication of rights because of a missing averment." Ibid.
We granted certiorari, 539 U.S. 986 (2003), in view of the division of opinion among the Circuits on the question whether an EAJA application may be amended, outside the 30-day period, to allege that the Government's position in the underlying litigation was not substantially justified, compare Singleton, 231 F.3d 853, with 319 F.3d 1346. We now reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals.
We clarify, first, that the question before us—whether Scarborough is time barred by § 2412(d)(1)(B) from gaining the fee award authorized by § 2412(d)(1)(A)—does not concern the federal courts' "subject-matter jurisdiction." Rather, it concerns a mode of relief (costs including legal fees) ancillary to the judgment of a court that has plenary "jurisdiction of [the civil] action" in which the fee application is made. See §§ 2412(b) and (d)(1)(A) (costs including fees awardable "in any civil action" brought against the United States "in any court having jurisdiction of [that] action"); 38 U. S. C. § 7252(a) ("The Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims shall have exclusive jurisdiction to review decisions of the Board of Veterans' Appeals.").
In short, § 2412(d)(1)(B) does not describe what "classes of cases," id., at 455, the CAVC is competent to adjudicate; instead, the section relates only to postjudgment proceedings auxiliary to cases already within that court's adjudicatory authority. Accordingly, as Kontrick indicates, the provision's 30-day deadline for fee applications and its application-content specifications are not properly typed "jurisdictional."
We turn next to the reason why Congress required the fee applicant to "allege" that the Government's position "was not substantially justified," § 2412(d)(1)(B).
Congress did not, however, want the "substantially justified" standard to "be read to raise a presumption that the Government position was not substantially justified simply because it lost the case . . . ." Ibid. By allocating the burden of pleading "that the position of the United States was not substantially justified"—and that burden only—to the fee applicant, Congress apparently sought to dispel any assumption that the Government must pay fees each time it loses. Complementarily, the no-substantial-justification-allegation requirement serves to ward off irresponsible litigation, i. e., unreasonable or capricious fee-shifting demands. As counsel for the Government stated at oral argument, allocating the pleading burden to fee applicants obliges them "to examine the Government's position and make a determination . . . whether it is substantially justified or not." Tr. of Oral Arg. 31; see id., at 19 (petitioner recognizes that "the purpose of this allegation [is to make] a lawyer think twice"). So understood, the applicant's burden to plead that the Government's position "was not substantially justified" is akin to the signature requirement in Becker and the oath or affirmation requirement in Edelman.
In Becker, a pro se litigant had typed, but had neglected to hand sign, his name, as required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11(a), on his timely filed notice of appeal. 532 U. S., at 760-761, 763; see supra, at 411-412. Although we called the rules on the timing and content of notices of appeal "linked jurisdictional provisions," Becker, 532 U. S., at 765 (referring to Fed. Rules App. Proc. 3 and 4), we concluded
The next Term, in Edelman, we described our decision in Becker as having allowed "relation back" of the late signature to the timely filed notice of appeal. 535 U. S., at 116. Edelman involved an EEOC regulation permitting a Title VII discrimination charge timely filed with the agency to be amended, outside the charge-filing period, to include an omitted, but required, verification. Id., at 109; see supra, at 411. "There is no reason," we observed in sustaining the regulation, "to think that relation back of the oath here is any less reasonable than relation back of the signature in Becker. Both are aimed at stemming the urge to litigate irresponsibly . . . ." 535 U. S., at 116.
Becker and Edelman inform our judgment in this case. Like the signature and verification requirements, EAJA's ten-word "not substantially justified" allegation is a "think twice" prescription that "stem[s] the urge to litigate irresponsibly," Edelman, 535 U. S., at 116; at the same time, the allegation functions to shift the burden to the Government to prove that its position in the underlying litigation "was substantially justified," § 2412(d)(1)(A). We note, too, that the allegation does not serve an essential notice-giving function; the Government is aware, from the moment a fee application
The Government, however, maintains that the relation-back regime, as now codified in Rule 15(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, is out of place in this context, for that Rule governs "pleadings," a term that does not encompass fee applications. Brief for Respondent 21; see Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 15(c)(2) (permitting relation back of amendments to pleadings when "the claim or defense asserted in the amended pleading arose out of the conduct, transaction, or occurrence set forth or attempted to be set forth in the original [timely filed] pleading"). See also Rule 7(a) (enumerating permitted "pleadings"). Scarborough acknowledges that Rule 15(c) itself is directed to federal district court "pleadings," but urges that this Court has approved application of the relation-back doctrine in analogous settings. Brief for Petitioner 28. Most recently, as just related, we applied the doctrine in Becker and Edelman to, respectively, a notice of appeal and an EEOC discrimination charge, neither of which is a "pleading" under the Federal Rules. As the Government concedes, moreover, see Tr. of Oral Arg. 35-36, "relation back" was not an invention of the
The relation-back doctrine, we accordingly hold, properly guides our determination that Scarborough's fee application could be amended, after the 30-day filing period, to include the "not substantially justified" allegation: The amended application "arose out of the conduct, transaction, or occurrence set forth or attempted to be set forth" in the initial application.
The Government insists most strenuously that § 2412's waiver of sovereign immunity from liability for fees is conditioned
We observe, first, that the Federal Circuit's reading of § 2412(d)(1)(B) is not as unyielding as the Government's. Indeed, the Federal Circuit has held that a fee application may be amended, out of time, to show that the applicant "is eligible to receive an award," § 2412(d)(1)(B). See Bazalo, 150 F. 3d, at 1383-1384 (amendment made after 30-day filing period cured failure initially to establish that fee applicant's net worth did not exceed $2 million). As earlier noted, see supra, at 412, the dissenting judge in Scarborough's case found Bazalo indistinguishable. 319 F. 3d, at 1355-1356 (opinion of Mayer, C. J.).
Our decisions in Irwin v. Department of Veterans Affairs, 498 U.S. 89 (1990), and Franconia Associates v. United States, 536 U.S. 129 (2002), are enlightening on this issue. Irwin involved an untimely filed Title VII employment discrimination complaint against the Government. Although the petitioner had missed the filing deadline, we held that Title VII's statutory time limits are subject to equitable
In those decisions, we recognized that "limitations principles should generally apply to the Government `in the same way that' they apply to private parties." Ibid. (quoting Irwin, 498 U. S., at 95). Once Congress waives sovereign immunity, we observed, judicial application of a time prescription to suits against the Government, in the same way the prescription is applicable to private suits, "amounts to little, if any, broadening of the congressional waiver." Irwin, 498 U. S., at 95. We further stated in Irwin that holding the Government responsible "is likely to be a realistic assessment of legislative intent as well as a practically useful principle of interpretation." Ibid.
The Government nevertheless maintains that Irwin and Franconia do not bear on this case, for "[§] 2412(d) authorizes
In any event, § 2412(d) is analogous to other fee-shifting provisions abrogating the general rule that each party to a lawsuit pays his own legal fees. The provision resembles "prevailing party" fee-shifting statutes that are applicable to suits between private litigants. See, e. g., 15 U. S. C. § 1692k(a)(3) (Fair Debt Collection Practices Act); 29 U. S. C. § 2617(a)(3) (Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993); 42 U. S. C. § 2000e-5(k) (Title VII); cf. Franconia, 536 U. S., at 145 (comparing Tucker Act statute of limitations to "contemporaneous state statutes of limitations applicable to suits between private parties [that] also tie the commencement of the limitations period to the date a claim `first accrues'").
We note, finally, that the Government has never argued that it will be prejudiced if Scarborough's "not substantially justified" allegation is permitted to relate back to his timely filed fee application. Moreover, a showing of prejudice should preclude operation of the relation-back doctrine in the first place. See Singleton, 231 F. 3d, at 858 ("The interests of the government and the courts will be served, however, if district courts are empowered to . . . outright deny a request to supplement [a fee application] if the government would be prejudiced."). In addition, EAJA itself has a built-in check: Section 2412(d)(1)(A) disallows fees where
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For the reasons stated, the judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
It is so ordered.
JUSTICE THOMAS, with whom JUSTICE SCALIA joins, dissenting.
Without deciding that the statutorily mandated 30-day deadline "even applies to the `not substantially justified' allegation requirement," ante, at 419, n. 6, the Court, nonetheless, applies the relation-back doctrine to cure the omitted no-substantial-justification allegation in petitioner's Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) fee application. The Court should have first addressed whether, as a textual matter, the no-substantial-justification allegation must be made within the 30-day deadline. I conclude that it must. The question then becomes whether the judicial application of the relation-back doctrine is appropriate in a case such as this where the statute defines the scope of the Government's waiver of sovereign immunity. Because there is no express allowance for relation back in EAJA, I conclude that the sovereign immunity canon applies to construe strictly the scope of the Government's waiver. The Court reaches its holding today by distorting the scope of Irwin v. Department of Veterans
In my view, the better reading of the text of the statute is that the 30-day deadline applies to the no-substantial-justification-allegation requirement. The first sentence of 28 U. S. C. § 2412(d)(1)(B) states that "[a] party seeking an award of fees and other expenses shall, within thirty days of final judgment in the action, submit to the court an application for fees . . . which shows": (1) the applicant's status as a prevailing party; (2) that the applicant is eligible to receive fees under § 2412(d)(2)(B); and (3) the itemized amount sought. The second sentence of § 2412(d)(1)(B) provides: "The party shall also allege that the position of the United States was not substantially justified." Ibid. In stating that the applicant "shall also" make the no-substantial-justification allegation, the second sentence links the allegation requirement with the timing and other content requirements of the first sentence.
Because I conclude that the no-substantial-justification allegation must be made within the 30-day deadline, the question
The only way the Court avoids this straightforward conclusion is by applying Irwin. Ante, at 420-422. Although Irwin does perhaps narrow the scope of the sovereign immunity canon, it does so only in limited circumstances. In particular, where the Government is made subject to suit to the same extent and in the same manner as private parties are, Irwin holds that the Government is subject to the rules that are "applicable to private suits." 498 U. S., at 95. The Court in Irwin, addressing equitable tolling, explained that "[t]ime requirements in lawsuits between private litigants are customarily subject to `equitable tolling,'" and that "[o]nce Congress has made . . . a waiver [of sovereign immunity], . . . making the rule of equitable tolling applicable to suits against the Government, in the same way that it is applicable to private suits, amounts to little, if any, broadening
Notwithstanding Irwin's limited scope, the Court concludes: "Irwin's reasoning would be diminished were it instructive only in situations with a readily identifiable private-litigation equivalent." Ante, at 422. The existence of this "private-litigation equivalent," however, formed the very basis for the Court's holding in Irwin.
I agree with the Government that there is "no analogue in private litigation," Brief for Respondent 39, for the EAJA fee awards at issue here. Section 2412(d) authorizes fee awards against the Government when there is no basis for recovery under the rules for private litigation.