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Hanson v. Colvin

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

October 28, 2014

ANTHONY L. HANSON, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commission of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

BERT W. MILLING, Jr., Magistrate Judge.

Pending before the Court is Plaintiff's Attorney's Application for Attorney Fees Under the Equal Access to Justice Act (hereinafter EAJA ), with supporting Documentation (Doc. 26), and Defendant's Response to Plaintiff's Application for Attorney's Fees (Doc. 27). After consideration of the pertinent pleadings, it is ORDERED that the Motion be GRANTED and that Plaintiff be AWARDED an EAJA attorney's fee in the amount of $3, 585.41.

Plaintiff filed this action on September 9, 2013 (Doc. 1). On June 23, 2014, the undersigned Judge entered a Memorandum Opinion and Order, reversing the decision of the Commissioner, and remanding this action for further proceedings (Doc. 24). Judgment was entered in favor of Plaintiff and against Defendant (Doc. 25).

On September 18, 2014, Byron A. Lassiter, counsel for Plaintiff, filed an Application for Attorney Fees Under the EAJA, in which he requests a fee of $3, 585.41, computed at an hourly rate of $186.74 for 19.2 hours spent in this Court (Doc. 26). Defendant, in her Response filed on September 20, 2014, stated that she did not object to an award of attorney's fees under EAJA but stated that payment should be made to Plaintiff rather than to his attorney (Doc. 27).

The EAJA requires a court to

award to a prevailing party... fees and other expenses... incurred by that party in any civil action... including proceedings for judicial review of Agency action, brought by or against the United States... unless the court finds that the position of the United States was substantially justified or that special circumstances make an award unjust.

28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(A). The EAJA further requires that a prevailing party file an application for attorney's fees within thirty days of final judgment in the action. 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(B). The court's judgment is final sixty days after it is entered, which is the time in which an appeal may be taken pursuant to Rule 4(a) of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure. See Shalala v. Schaefer, 509 U.S. 292 (1993).

As set out above, there are three statutory conditions that must be satisfied before EAJA fees may be awarded under 28 U.S.C. § 2412. See Myers v. Sullivan, 916 F.2d 659, 666 (11th Cir. 1990). First, the claimant must file an application for fees within the thirty-day period. Second, the claimant must be a prevailing party. Third, the Government's position must not be substantially justified.

Defendant apparently concedes that Plaintiff became the prevailing party when the Court remanded this action, that the fee motion was timely filed, and that the original administrative decision denying benefits was not substantially justified (Doc. 27). The Court finds that the three § 2412(d)(1)(A) prerequisites have been met.

The Court will now discuss the fee to be awarded in this action. The EAJA, like 42 U.S.C. § 1988, is a fee-shifting statute. The 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, 1586 (11th Cir. 1985 (EAJA) ( quoting Hensley v. Eckerhartt, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983) (§ 1988)). In describing this lodestar method of calculation, the United States Supreme Court stated:

This calculation provides an objective basis on which to make an initial estimate of the value of a lawyer's services. The party seeking an award of fees should submit evidence supporting the hours worked and the rates claimed. Where the documentation of hours is inadequate, the district court may reduce the award accordingly. The district court also should exclude from this initial fee calculation hours that were not "reasonably expended."... Cases may be overstaffed, and the skill and experience of lawyers vary widely. Counsel for the prevailing party should make a good-faith effort to exclude from a fee request hours that are excessive, redundant, or otherwise unnecessary, just as a lawyer in private practice ethically is obligated to exclude such hours from his fee submission. In the private sector, billing judgment' is an important component in fee setting. It is no less important here. Hours that are not properly billed to one's client also are not properly billed to one's adversary pursuant to statutory authority.

Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434 (citations omitted). Counsel must use professional judgment in billing under EAJA. A lawyer should only be compensated for hours spent on activities for which he would bill a client of means who was seriously intent on vindicating similar rights. Norman v. Housing Authority, 836 F.2d 1292, 1301 (11th Cir. 1988).

The Court, after examination of Plaintiff's attorney's Application and supporting documentation, and after consideration of the reasonableness of the hours claimed, finds that Plaintiff's counsel's time expended in prosecuting this action for a total of 19.2 hours is reasonable.

With respect to a determination of the hourly rate to apply in a given EAJA case, the express language of the Act ...


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