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In a Civil Case Complaint against the US Federal Government, it is possible for the plaintiff in certain circumstances to get a refund of his attorney fees and other expenses.

As explained on a government site:

The Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), first enacted in 1980, authorizes the award of attorney fees and other expenses to eligible parties who prevail against the Federal government in judicial proceedings and certain adversarial agency adjudicative proceedings, where the position of the government is not substantially justified.

In a Civil Cover Sheet (JS44) that accompanies Civil Case Complaints, there is usually a field called "Demand $" in which the plaintiff should specify if the complaint demands any amount of money as part of the requested relief.

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Question: Is this field also intended for specifying a requested refund of legal fees (based on the EAJA), in case that the plaintiff will be a prevailing party?

Pay attention that the question refers to the initial complaint and its corresponding cover sheet which are being filed (as opposed to a potential subsequent separate complaint, specifically for the purpose of requesting an EAJA refund). Therefore at the time of filing, it is not yet known if the plaintiff will be a prevailing party. However it is possible to specify even in the initial complaint itself that part of the requested relief is a refund of legal fees according to the EAJA. So the question is if the "Demand $" field in the cover sheet for the initial complaint is intended also to specify this type of monetary compensation.

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Is this field also intended for specifying a requested refund of legal fees (based on the EAJA), in case that the plaintiff will be a prevailing party?

No.

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  • Can you explain your reasoning? Are cover sheets just a matter of convention rather than determined by the law?
    – rapt
    Jul 11 at 19:14
  • @rapt The OP strongly hints at the reasoning. In context of the timing and how the process works, it doesn't make sense for that to be included in the claim. Also an EAJA award is a litigation sanction that is extraordinary and can't exist at the time a claim is filed because misconduct justifying its imposition hasn't occurred and is unlikely to occur (and thus can't be quantified in an initial cover sheet).
    – ohwilleke
    Jul 12 at 16:51
  • The EAJA award often cannot yet be precisely quantified when filing the complaint, but determining if money is part of the requested relief can already be done. Leaving the field empty may also be interpreted as "plaintiff is not asking for money". That's why the form is ambiguous and could have been improved. Even if the form is more for statistical analysis. As implied in OP, I have seen complaints that asked for the EAJA compensation (as a declaratory relief, without specifying numbers) immediately in the initial complaint. These motions have been granted (including the EAJA compensation).
    – rapt
    Jul 19 at 16:07
  • @rapt Keep in mind that the civil cover sheet is used primarily to prepare the statistics for the annual report on the dockets of the court system. The statements made in it aren't used in the litigation itself except in rare cases where it is one factor in evaluating if diversity jurisdiction has been alleged.
    – ohwilleke
    Jul 19 at 18:46
  • It makes sense. Thank you for the advice.
    – rapt
    Jul 19 at 22:33

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