United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division
JERMESHIA M. DALE, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commission of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
BERT W. MILLING, Jr., Magistrate Judge.
Pending before the Court is Dale's Attorney's Application for Attorney Fees Under the Equal Access to Justice Act (hereinafter EAJA ), with supporting Documentation (Doc. 23), and Defendant's Response (Doc. 24). After considering 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, 991.89.
Plaintiff filed this action on May 22, 2014 (Doc. 1). On January 6, 2015, the undersigned Judge entered a Memorandum Opinion and Order, reversing the Commissioner's decision and remanding this action for further proceedings (Doc. 21). Judgment was entered that same date in favor of Plaintiff and against Defendant (Doc. 22).
On April 1, 2015, Byron A. Lassiter, Dale's Attorney, filed an EAJA Fee Application requesting a fee of $3, 991.89, computed at an hourly rate of $190.09 for twenty-one hours spent in this Court (Doc. 23). Defendant, in her Response filed eight days later, stated that she had no objection to the requested fee, noting that payment should be made to Plaintiff rather than to her Attorney (Doc. 24).
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). 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, three statutory conditions must be satisfied before EAJA fees may be awarded. See Myers v. Sullivan, 916 F.2d 659, 666 (11th Cir. 1990). First, the claimant must file a fee application within the thirty-day period; also, the claimant must be a prevailing party. Finally, the Government's position must not be substantially justified. Defendant apparently concedes all three EAJA requirements ( see Doc. 24). The Court finds that they have been met.
Having found the prerequisites satisfied, the Court will discuss the fee to be awarded. EAJA 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).
After examining Plaintiff's Attorneys' Application, and supporting documentation, and considering the reasonableness of the hours claimed, the Court finds that the twenty-one hours expended in prosecuting this action is reasonable. In determining the hourly rate to apply in a given EAJA case, express statutory language provides 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 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, justified a higher fee.
28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(2)(A) (Supp. 1997). In Meyer v. Sullivan, 958 F.2d 1029 (11th Cir. 1992), the Eleventh Circuit determined that 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 $75 per hour, is to determine whether the court should adjust the hourly fee ...