United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
JAMI K. WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL,  Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER GRANTING EAJA FEE
matter comes before the court upon plaintiff's
application for attorney fees under the Equal Access to
Justice Act (“EAJA”). (Doc. 30). Defendant
objects. (Doc. 31).
initially applied for $9, 903.75 in fees, to account for 51.4
hours of attorney work at $192.68 per hour. (Doc. 30 at 3).
The Commissioner responded that 51.4 hours was an excessive
amount of time for an experienced Social Security
practitioner to spend on a case without any novel or complex
legal issues, with an average transcript length, and with
only two years' worth of medical records. (Doc. 31). The
Commissioner asserts that cases of this nature typically
require only 15-30 hours of work and awards ranging from $2,
000 to $5, 000, and the Commissioner asks the court to deny
compensation for hours above this reasonable amount.
for plaintiff replies that the hours devoted to this matter
may be higher than average, but not excessively higher, and
well within the common range for this region. (Doc. 32). He
cites a number of cases from this district to support this
claim. Green v. Berryhill, No. 4:15 CV 827 ACL (E.D.
Mo, Jan. 27, 2017) (awarding $7, 362.88); Beringer v.
Colvin, No. 4:15 CV 1412 NAB (E.D. Mo., Jan. 17, 2017)
(awarding $7, 000); Conrad v. Colvin, No. 4:15 CV
1290 SPM (E.D. Mo. Sept. 27, 2016) (awarding $7, 292.92). He
also cites to cases from the Southern District of Illinois.
See, e.g., Barnett v. Berryhill, No. 15 CV 1018 CJP
(S.D. Ill. Apr. 5, 2017) (awarding $15, 794.12); Newburn
v. Berryhill, No. 13 CV 1265 CJP (S.D. Ill. Mar. 30,
2017) (awarding $13, 344.64); Del Real v. Berryhill,
No. 14 CV 277 CJP (S.D. Ill. Mar. 30, 2017) (awarding $11,
308.32). Plaintiff agrees to reduce the hours spent reviewing
the Court's memorandum from 1.5 hours to 15 minutes, as
the majority of that time was spent for remand purposes.
(Doc. 32 at 8). Finally, plaintiff seeks an additional 2.5
hours compensation for replying to the government's EAJA
fee objections. (Doc. 32 at 9).
evidentiary record in this case was 549 pages long, and
plaintiff's counsel drafted 30 pages addressing the
evidence as it related to the ALJ's decision and the
Commissioner's arguments. (Doc. 16). Plaintiff's
counsel claims he spent 27.7 hours drafting the brief in
support of the complaint, which was 20 pages long, and 15.4
hours drafting the reply brief, which was 10 pages long.
(Docs. 16; 26; 30, Ex. 2). This is understandable considering
that plaintiff's counsel did not also claim additional
time spent reviewing or analyzing the record or performing
legal research. Counsel for plaintiff presented a four-part
argument concerning the ALJ's handling of
opinion-evidence from a treating ophthalmologist. (Doc. 16 at
14-20). Counsel for plaintiff asserts that analysis of the
facts in this case was especially difficult because they
related to a visual impairment, and counsel had to
“spend hours researching the meaning of a variety of
visual conditions and treatments, ” because
visual-impairment medical records are not straightforward but
riddled with “abbreviations, dense reports, and
terminology such as uveitis, photalgia, scleral, and
iridotomy.” (Doc. 32 at 5). Plaintiff's counsel
noted that eye doctors replace words like “right, left
or both, with ‘OD, ' OS, ' and
‘OU'” and “place plus and minus signs
before numbers to indicate results, each of which must be
compared by a lay person to tables and translations.”
Commissioner argues that 15.4 hours is excessive for a reply
brief when plaintiff's counsel would have already been
familiar with the legal and factual information at issue.
(Doc. 31 at 5-6). However, the reply brief is not simply a
rehashing of the plaintiff's initial brief in support,
but it is responsive to the legal arguments made by the
government in its brief and appears to represent additional
legal research. (Doc. 26).
of 52.65 hours is within the realm of reasonableness for a
social security disability case in this context. The
Commissioner argues that the issues within the case were not
complex or novel and did not require this amount of work, and
while she is correct that plaintiff's counsel is an
experienced social security practitioner, this does not
support the idea that plaintiff's counsel put unnecessary
time or effort into this case. Furthermore, just because an
argument may be typical does not mean plaintiff is not
entitled to fair compensation for the time her attorney spent
advocating on her behalf.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiff's
motion for attorney fees (Doc. 30) is
IS FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiff is awarded EAJA
attorney fees in the amount of $10, 144.60 (52.65 hours at
$192.68 hour: 51.4 hours minus 1.25 for the opinion review
and plus 2.5 hours for the EAJA fee reply), subject to offset
for any pre-existing debt plaintiff owes to the United
States. The EAJA fee award is to be mailed to plaintiff's
attorney's address. If the EAJA fee award is offset by
pre-existing debt, the Commissioner is directed to pay any
remaining balance of the EAJA fee award directly to
plaintiff. If the EAJA fee award is not offset by
pre-existing debt, the Commissioner is directed to pay the
EAJA fee award directly to plaintiff's attorney.
 The Hon. Nancy A. Berryhill is now the
Acting Commissioner of Social Security. Pursuant to Rule
25(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, she is
substituted in her official capacity for Carolyn W. Colvin as
the defendant in this ...