49 CFR § 6.9 - Standards for awards.
(a) An eligible applicant may receive an award for fees and expenses incurred by that party in connection with a decision in favor of the applicant in a proceeding covered by this Part, unless the position of the Department over which the applicant has prevailed was substantially justified or special circumstances make the award sought unjust. The burden of proof that an award should not be made to an eligible applicant is on the Department where it has initiated the proceeding. No presumption arises that the Department's position was not substantially justified simply because the Department did not prevail. Whether or not the position of the Department was substantially justified shall be determined on the basis of the administrative record, as a whole, in the adversary adjudication for which fees and other expenses are sought. The “position of the Department” means, in addition to the position taken by the agency in the adversary adjudication, the action or failure to act by the Department upon which the adversary adjudication may be based.
(b) In the context of a Departmental proceeding to enforce a party's compliance with a statutory or regulatory requirement, if the demand by the Department is substantially in excess of the amount awarded to the government pursuant to the decision of the adjudicative officer and is unreasonable when compared with such decision, under the facts and circumstances of the case, the adjudicative officer shall award to an eligible applicant party the fees and expenses related to defending against the excessive demand, unless the applicant party has committed a willful violation of law or otherwise acted in bad faith, or special circumstances make an award unjust. Fees and expenses awarded under this paragraph shall be paid only as a consequence of appropriations provided in advance. As used in this section, “demand” means the express demand of the Department which led to the adversary adjudication, but does not include a recitation by the Department of the maximum statutory penalty
(i) In the administrative complaint, or
(ii) Elsewhere when accompanied by an express demand for a lesser amount.
(c) The decision of the Department on the application for fees and other expenses shall be the final administrative decision under this section.
(d) An award will be reduced or denied if the applicant has unduly or unreasonably protracted the proceeding.
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