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Roberts v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

June 10, 2015

RONALD C. ROBERTS, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION TO GRANT PLAINTIFF'S APPLICATION FOR ATTORNEY FEES UNDER THE EQUAL ACCESS TO JUSTICE ACT [27]

DAVID R. GRAND, Magistrate Judge.

I. REPORT

A. Procedural History

In this action, Plaintiff Ronald C. Roberts ("Roberts") filed a complaint challenging the administrative determination denying his Social Security disability insurance benefits. (Doc. #1). He was successful in that, on January 8, 2015, the undersigned issued a Report and Recommendation to remand the matter to the Administrative Law Judge for further consideration. (Doc. #24). On January 14, 2015, District Judge Lawrence P. Zatkoff issued an order adopting the recommendation. (Doc. #25). That same day, the district court entered final judgment in Roberts' favor and remanded the case for further administrative proceedings pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C.§ 405(g). (Doc. #26).

On April 14, 2015, Roberts timely filed a petition for attorney fees, pursuant to the Equal Access to Justice Act ("EAJA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2412. (Doc. #27). Roberts requests a total of $4, 452.64 in attorney fees. ( Id., at 10). The Commissioner did not file a response or otherwise oppose Roberts' fee petition, which is now before the Court for a Report and Recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). (Doc. #28).

B. Analysis

1. Roberts is Entitled to an Award of EAJA Attorney's Fees

The EAJA provides in relevant part:

Except as otherwise specifically provided by statute, a court shall award to a prevailing party other than the United States 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). The Sixth Circuit has identified three conditions which must be met to recover attorney fees under the EAJA: (1) the claimant must be the prevailing party; (2) the government's position must be without substantial justification; and (3) there must be no special circumstances which would warrant a denial of fees. See Marshall v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 444 F.3d 837, 840 (6th Cir. 2006); Willis v. Sullivan, 931 F.2d 390, 401 (6th Cir. 1991).

With respect to the first condition, the United States Supreme Court has held that a party who obtains a sentence four remand is a prevailing party eligible for a judgment awarding attorney's fees under the EAJA. See Shalala v. Schaefer, 509 U.S. 292, 301-02 (1992). Since Roberts obtained a sentence four remand, this condition has been satisfied.

With respect to the second and third conditions, the Commissioner offers no special circumstances which might warrant denial of fees, and has made no attempt to satisfy the burden of demonstrating that the government's position was substantially justified. See Scarborough v. Principi, 541 U.S. 401, 414-15 (2004); accord Peck v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 165 F.Appx. 443, 446 (6th Cir. 2006). Thus, Roberts is entitled to an award of attorney fees under the EAJA.

2. Amount of Attorney Fees

Attorney fees claimed under the EAJA must be reasonable. See Glass v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 822 F.2d 19, 21 (6th Cir. 1987). As the Supreme Court noted in Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424 (1983), 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." Id. 433. In Glass, the Sixth Circuit recognized that "the rate-timeshours method of calculation, also known as the lodestar' approach, includes most, if not all, of the factors ...


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