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Ladd v. Colvin

United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division

July 9, 2014

PAMELA LADD, o/b/o J.J.L.G., Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

ORDER

SONJA F. BIVINS, Magistrate Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Application For Attorney Fees Under the Equal Access to Justice Act ("EAJA") and the response of Defendant, the Commissioner of Social Security. (Docs. 21, 24). On October 29, 2013, the parties consented to have the undersigned conduct any and all proceedings in this case. (Doc. 16). Thus, this case was referred to the undersigned to conduct all proceedings in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 73. (Doc. 18). Upon consideration of the pertinent pleadings, the undersigned finds that Plaintiff's motion is due to be GRANTED, and that Plaintiff is entitled to a reasonable attorney's fee award in the amount of $930.00 under the EAJA for legal services rendered by her attorney in this Court.

I. Findings Of Fact

Plaintiff commenced this action on February 25, 2013. (Doc. 1). On March 25, 2014, the undersigned entered an Order and Judgment reversing and remanding this cause to the Commissioner of Social Security for further proceedings. (Docs. 19, 20).

On June 5, 2014, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Attorney's Fees under the EAJA, [1] and requested an attorney's fee award of $930.00. (Doc. 21). The sum requested represents a total of 5.0 hours, at an hourly rate of $186.00 per hour, for attorney time spent representing Plaintiff in this Court. ( Id. at 4). Defendant has filed a Response in which she states that she has no objection to Plaintiff's fee request or the amount of the fee request and that she consents to an award of $930.00 in attorney's fees, payable to Plaintiff.[2] (Doc. 24 at 1). For the reasons set forth herein, the Court finds Plaintiff is entitled to an award of attorney's fees under the EAJA and that the hourly rate utilized to calculate her attorney's fees is due to be adjusted upward to take into account the prevailing market rate for social security cases in the Southern District of Alabama.

II. Conclusions Of Law

The U.S. Supreme Court has indicated that "the most useful starting point for determining the amount of a reasonable fee is the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate." Watford v. Heckler , 765 F.2d 1562, 1568 (11th Cir. 1985) (quoting Hensley v. Eckerhart , 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983)). See also Jean v. Nelson , 863 F.2d 759, 772-73 (11th Cir. 1988) (discussing the reasonableness of the hours expended in the context of contentions by the government that the fee requests were not supported by sufficient documentation and often involved a duplication of effort), aff'd sub nom, Commissioner, I.N.S. v. Jean , 496 U.S. 154 (1990).

A. EAJA Hourly Rate

The EAJA (as amended)[3] provides, in relevant part, as follows:

The amount of fees awarded under this subsection shall be based upon prevailing market rates for the kind and quality of the services furnished, except that... attorney fees shall not be awarded in excess of $125.00 per hour unless the court determines that an increase in the cost of living or a special factor, such as the limited availability of qualified attorneys for the proceedings involved, justifies a higher fee.

28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(2)(A) (emphasis added). In Meyer v. Sullivan , 958 F.2d 1029 (11th Cir. 1992), the Eleventh Circuit determined that the EAJA establishes a two-step analysis for determining the appropriate hourly rate to be applied in calculating attorney's fees under the Act:

The first step in the analysis, ... is to determine the market rate for "similar services [provided] by lawyers of reasonably comparable skills, experience, and reputation."... The second step, which is needed only if the market rate is greater than [$125.00] per hour, is to determine whether the court should adjust the hourly fee upward from [$125.00] to take into account an increase in the cost of living, or a special factor.

Id. at 1033-34 (citations and footnote omitted).

The prevailing market rate for social security cases in the Southern District of Alabama has been adjusted to take into account an increase in the cost of living. Lucy v. Astrue , 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 97094 (S.D. Ala. July 5, 2007). ...


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