United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
NANNETTE A. BAKER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter is before the court on Plaintiff's Application for
Attorney's Fees Under the Equal Access to Justice Act, 28
U.S.C. § 2412 (“EAJA”). [Doc. 24.] Plaintiff
requests attorney's fees in the amount of $4, 640.63, at
the rate of $187.50 per hour for 24.75 hours of attorney
work. Defendant Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of
Social Security, does not object to Plaintiff's request
for attorney's fees nor the amount requested. [Doc. 25.]
Based on the following, the Court will award Plaintiff
attorney's fees in the amount of $4, 640.63.
Factual and Procedural Background
Darrick Lawson filed this action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g) for judicial review of the final decision of
Defendant denying Plaintiff's application for disability
insurance benefits, period of disability, and supplemental
security income under the Social Security Act. [Doc. 1.] On
December 28, 2016, the Court issued an Order of Reversal and
Remand and a Judgment in favor of Plaintiff pursuant to
sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). [Docs. 22, 23.]
Plaintiff filed a motion for attorney's fees under the
EAJA on March 8, 2017. [Doc. 24.] Defendant filed a response
on March 22, 2017. [Doc. 25.]
Standard of Review
court shall award to a prevailing party. . . fees and other
expenses . . . 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. §
seeking an award of fees and other expenses must (1) submit
to the court an application for fees and other expenses which
shows that the party is a prevailing party and eligible to
receive an award; (2) provide the amount sought, including an
itemized statement from any attorney or expert witness
representing or appearing on behalf of the party stating the
actual time expended and the rate at which fees and other
expenses were computed; (3) allege that the position of the
United States was not substantially justified, and (4) make
the application within thirty days of final judgment of the
action. 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(B). The determination of
whether the position of the United States was substantially
justified shall be determined on the basis of the record made
in the action for which the fees are sought. Id.
“In sentence four [remand] cases, the filing period
begins after the final judgment (“affirming, modifying,
or reversing”) is entered by the Court and the appeal
period has run so that the judgment is no longer
appealable.” Melkonyan v. Sullivan, 501 U.S.
89, 102 (1991) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(2)(G)
(“Final judgment" means a judgment that is final
and not appealable.”)).
is well-settled that in order to be a prevailing party for
EAJA purposes, plaintiff must have received some, but not
necessarily all, of the benefits originally sought in his
action.” Stanfield v. Apfel, 985 F.Supp. 927,
929 (E.D. Mo. 1997) (citing Swedberg v. Bowen, 804
F.2d 432, 434 (8th Cir.1986)). Obtaining a sentence four
judgment reversing the Secretary's denial of benefits is
sufficient to confer prevailing party status. Shalala v.
Schaefer, 509 U.S. 292, 302 (1993).
action, the Court finds that Plaintiff has demonstrated that
an award of attorney's fees under the EAJA is appropriate
in this matter. First, Plaintiff is a prevailing party in
this action, because he has obtained a reversal of the
Commissioner's denial of his application for benefits.
Plaintiff's application for attorney's fees is
reasonable. Plaintiff requests attorney's fees in the
amount of $4, 640.63 at the rate of $187.50 per hour for
24.75 hours of attorney work. Plaintiff includes an itemized
statement from his attorneys stating the actual time expended
and the rate at which the attorney's fees were computed.
Therefore, the Court will award Plaintiff attorney's fees
for 24.75 hours of attorney work.
EAJA sets a statutory limit on the amount of fees awarded to
counsel at $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)(ii). “In
determining a reasonable attorney's fee, the court will
in each case consider the following factors: time and labor
required; the difficulty of questions involved; the skill
required to handle the problems presented; the attorney's
experience, ability, and reputation; the benefits resulting
to the client from the services; the customary fee for
similar services; the contingency or certainty of
compensation; the results obtained; and the amount
involved.” Richardson-Ward v. Astrue, 2009
WL1616701, No. 4:07-CV-1301 JCH at *1 (E.D. Mo. June 9,
2009). “The decision to increase the hourly rate is at
the discretion of the district court.” Id. at
*2. “Where, as here, an EAJA petitioner presents
uncontested proof of an increase in the cost of living
sufficient to justify hourly attorney's fees of more than
[$125.00] per hour, enhanced fees should be awarded.”
Johnson v. Sullivan, 919 F.2d 503, 505 (8th Cir.
counsel cited evidence from the U.S. Department of Labor,
explaining the change in the cost of living from 1996 when
the $125.00 hourly limitation became effective until 2015.
Defendant does not contest the hourly rate, the total fee
request, nor the number of hours itemized in the invoice.
Upon consideration of these facts, the Court finds that the
hourly rate, number of hours expended, and a total fee award
of $4, 640.63 is reasonable. As alleged by Plaintiff, the
Court finds that the Defendant's position was not
substantially justified. Plaintiff's application for fees
was timely filed. Therefore, the Court will award Plaintiff
$4, 640.63 in attorney's fees at the rate of $187.50 per
hour for 24.75 hours of attorney work.
has submitted an affidavit assigning any award he may receive
under the EAJA to his counsel of record. The EAJA requires
that the attorney's fee award be awarded to the
prevailing party, in this case the Plaintiff, not the
Plaintiff's attorney. Astrue v. Ratcliff, 560
U.S. 586, 591 (2010) (the term “prevailing party”
in fee statutes is a “term of art” that refers to
the prevailing litigant) (citing 42 U.S.C. §
2412(d)(1)(A)). Awards of attorney fees to the prevailing
party under the EAJA are “subject to [g]overnment
offset to satisfy a pre-existing debt that the litigant owes
the United States.” Ratcliff, 560 U.S. at 589.
Any award for attorney's fees must be subject to any
government offset, even if the Plaintiff has assigned his
right to the award to his attorney. ...