United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Olson and Karl Osterhout, for Plaintiff.
Green, Assistant United States Attorney, for Defendant.
FRANKLIN L. NOEL UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
MATTER came before the undersigned United States
Magistrate Judge on Plaintiff's motion for attorney's
fees and costs under the Equal Access to Justice Act (ECF No.
19). In the instant motion, Plaintiff seeks an award of $8,
341.27 in attorney's fees and costs of $400. For the
reasons that follow, the Court orders that Plaintiff's
motion be GRANTED in part and
DENIED in part.
September 11, 2017, Plaintiff Jenna Lucht initiated this
action seeking judicial review of the final decision of
Defendant Nancy Berryhhill, the Acting Commissioner of Social
Security (“Commissioner”), denying her claim for
Social Security benefits. See ECF No. 1. On March
15, 2018, the parties filed a stipulation for remand to the
Social Security Agency pursuant to sentence four of the
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). See
ECF No. 15. Based on the parties' stipulation, on March
21, 2018, the Court remanded the case to the Commissioner for
further proceedings, see ECF No. 17, and on the same
day, the Court entered judgment in Plaintiff's favor.
See ECF No. 18.
counsel now seeks attorney's fees and costs under the
Equal Access to Justice Act (“EAJA”), 28 U.S.C.
§ 2412. See ECF No. 19. Plaintiff's counsel
represents that he spent 42.1 hours working on this matter at
a rate of $198.13 an hour. See Id. The Commissioner
does not generally oppose Plaintiff's counsel's
request for an award of EAJA fees and costs, but does object
to the $8, 341.27 requested fees; to that end, the
Commissioner does not object to an EAJA award of $400.00 in
costs or oppose Plaintiff's counsel's requested
$198.13 hourly rate. See ECF No. 22 at 1, 6.
However, the Commissioner argues that the amount of time
Plaintiff's counsel allocated to this case, 42.1 hours,
is excessive and unreasonable in light of the fact that the
parties stipulated to a remand. See id.
EAJA requires a court to award costs, fees, and other
expenses incurred by a party that prevails against the United
States in any non-tort-related civil action “including
proceedings for judicial review of agency action . . . unless
the court finds 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). A party
“prevails” under 28 U.S.C. § 2412 if she
secures a judgment that reverses the Commissioner's
denial of disability benefits and remands the case for
further proceedings. Shalala v. Schaefer, 509 U.S.
292, 301-02 (1993). The Commissioner bears the burden of
proving that its position was substantially justified or that
special circumstances make an award unjust. See Bah v.
Cangemi, 548 F.3d 680, 684 (8th Cir. 2008). “[T]he
fee applicant bears the burden of establishing entitlement to
an award and documenting the appropriate hours expended and
hourly rates.” Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S.
424, 437 (1983). “[T]he district court has discretion
in determining the amount of a fee award.” Id.
Commissioner does not dispute that Plaintiff is a prevailing
party, only that Plaintiff's counsel's requested fees
and costs are unreasonable in light of the parties'
stipulated remand and that Plaintiff's counsel was not
required to file a reply brief. See generally ECF
No. 22. The Commissioner represents that she is amendable to
an award “of no more than 35 hours and $6,
934.55.” Id. at 3. The Commissioner further
argues that Plaintiff's counsel's requested fee
amount is comparable to previous fee totals he was awarded in
cases requiring far more work. See Id. In essence,
the Commissioner argues that Plaintiff's counsel is
representing that he spent the same amount of time here as he
claimed he spent in cases that took considerably more effort,
with no fee abatement despite the Commissioner's
stipulation to remand. See id.
disability cases commonly require 20 to 40 hours of attorney
time.” Coleman v. Asture, No. C05-3045-PAZ, WL
4438633, at *3 (N.D. Iowa Dec. 17, 2007); see, e.g.,
Cruz v. Apfel, 48 F.Supp.2d 226, 230 (E.D.N.Y.1999)
(holding that Social Security disability insurance benefit
cases generally require 20 to 40 hours of attorney time).
Here, given that the parties stipulated to a remand, no
motion for summary judgment was filed by the Commissioner, no
response field by the Commissioner to Plaintiff's motion
for summary judgement, and no reply briefing was needed on
Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, this Court, in
its discretion, concludes that this case falls within the
ambit of the number of hours commonly required for litigating
a routine disability insurance claim under the Social
Security Act. See, e.g., Johnson v. Sullivan, 919
F.2d 503, 505 (8th Cir.1990) (“the ultimate amount of
an EAJA fee award remains within the district court's
discretion”). Accordingly, this Court concludes that
Plaintiff's counsel's requested 42.1 hours must be
reduced to 38 hours, for a total EAJA fee award of $7,
528.94. See Hensley, 461 U.S. at 437.
upon the foregoing and all of the files, records, and
proceedings herein, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED
that Plaintiff's motion for attorney's fees and costs
under the Equal Access to Justice Act (ECF No. 19) is
GRANTED in part and DENIED in
part. Plaintiff's specific request for an $8,
341.27 award in attorney's fees under the EAJA is
DENIED. However, Plaintiff's general
request for EAJA costs and ...