United States District Court, D. Minnesota
C. Olson, Karl E. Osterhout, Osterhout Disability Law, LLC,
counsel for plaintiff
Marentette, United States Attorney counsel for defendant
Katherine Menendez United States Magistrate Judge
August 29, 2017, the Court entered an order granting
Plaintiff Arlene Margert Wildey's motion for summary
judgment and remanding this case to the Commissioner of
Social Security for further proceedings. Ord., ECF No. 17.
The Clerk entered judgment, and Ms. Wildey has filed a
Petition for Attorney Fees invoking the Equal Access to
Justice Act (“EAJA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2412.
Pet., ECF No. 19. In her motion, Ms. Wildey argues that she
is the prevailing party and that the government's
position was not substantially justified by the record as a
whole. See Id. at 1. She seeks $9, 011.51 in
attorney's fees for 46.6 hours of work at an hourly rate
of $193.88. Id.; see also Pl.'s
Br. in Resp. to Def.'s Opp., ECF No. 24. The Commissioner
does not object to Ms. Wildey's prevailing-party status,
her characterization of the government's position, or the
requested hourly rate. But the Commissioner does challenge
the total amount requested. Def.'s Opp. at 2, ECF No. 23.
EAJA provides, in relevant part, that:
Except as otherwise specifically provided by statute, a court
shall award to a prevailing party other than the United
States fees and other expenses, in addition to any costs
awarded pursuant to subsection (a), incurred by that party in
any civil action (other than cases sounding in tort),
including proceedings for judicial review of agency action,
brought by or against the United States in any court having
jurisdiction of that action, 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). An application for fees and
costs under the EAJA must show that the party is a prevailing
party whose net worth was less than two million dollars when
the civil action was filed and include: (1) a statement of
the amount sought; (2) an itemized statement of the time
spent by the attorney on the case; (3) a statement of the
rate at which fees and other expenses have been computed; and
(4) an allegation that the Commissioner's position is not
substantially justified. Id. § 2412(d)(1)(B).
Only “reasonable fees and expenses” may be
awarded to a prevailing party. Id. § 2412(b).
The ultimate amount of an award is within the district
court's discretion. Johnson v. Sullivan, 919
F.2d 503, 505 (8th Cir. 1990).
Court finds that Ms. Wildey has satisfied the above
requirements to demonstrate entitlement to fees. The
Commissioner concedes that Ms. Wildey is entitled to
attorney's fees and does not explicitly object to the
requested hourly rate. See generally Def.'s Opp.
Instead, the Commissioner objects to the number of hours for
which Ms. Wildey requests payment. Id. at 5. The
Commissioner asserts that “this case did not reasonably
require the time claimed by counsel.” Id.
Commissioner argues that typical social security cases take
fewer hours than the 46.6 hours requested here. Id.
at 2 (citing Coleman v. Astrue, No. C05-3045-PAZ,
2007 WL 4438633, at *3 (N.D. Iowa Dec. 17, 2007)). The
Commissioner contends that counsel for Ms. Wildey only raised
two issues that were “common to social security
appeals” and not “novel or complex.”
Def.'s Opp. at 4. (citing Kramer v.
Apfel, 57 F.Supp.2d 774, 775-76 (S.D. Iowa 1999)). The
Commissioner further asserts that Ms. Wildey's brief
contained a substantial amount of “boilerplate language
and quotations” and therefore the request for 46.6
hours of attorney work is “unreasonable.”
Id. at 4-5. Ultimately, the Commissioner requests
that the Court reduce Ms. Wildey's attorney's fees to
reflect thirty-five or fewer hours. Id. at 5. But
the cases on which the Commissioner relies are
distinguishable from the instant matter and the Court
declines to follow their reasoning here.
Commissioner cites Coleman as establishing an upper
hour limit for “typical” social security cases.
But Coleman only notes that “some
courts” have found such a limit to be reasonable, that
others have awarded substantially more hours based on the
facts of the case, and that the court has broad discretion to
determine the reasonability of the time expended. 2007 WL
4438633, at *3. The Commissioner is correct that the
Kramer court reasoned that simpler cases typically
involve fifteen to twenty hours. 57 F.Supp.2d at 775. But the
court in Kramer first examined the specific facts of
the claimed hours in that case and found them excessive.
Ms. Wildey's counsel provided specific support for the
46.6 hours expended in this matter. See Itemization
of Time, ECF No. 20-1. Ms. Wildey's brief was based on a
1, 483-page record. Id. at 1. Almost half of the
46.6 hours were spent reviewing the record and researching
the relevant legal issues. Id. at 1-2. And Ms.
Wildey's counsel did not represent her at the
administrative level and therefore had to become familiar
with the record. Moreover, courts from this district have
repeatedly granted fees over the limits contemplated by the
Commissioner. See, e.g., Chang v. Berryhill,
15-cv-4496 (ADM/HB), 2017 WL 2773539, at *2 (D. Minn. May 31,
2017) (awarding 52 hours in a case with a 540-page record);
Carpenter v. Colvin, 14-cv-1664 (JRT/TLN), 2016 WL
4218282, at *1 (D. Minn. Aug. 10, 2016) (awarding 58.5 hours
in a case with a 1125-page record); Ubel v. Colvin,
13-cv-875 (JRT/JJG), 2014 WL 2009051, at *1-4 (D. Minn. May
16, 2014) (awarding 61 hours in a case with a 879-page
reviewing the entire file, the Court finds that the requested
award of $9, 011.51 is reasonable.
on the foregoing, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT
Wildey's Motion for Attorney Fees (ECF ...