United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
PHILLIP J. GREEN United States Magistrate Judge
was a social security action brought under 42 U.S.C. §
405(g) seeking judicial review of a final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security denying plaintiff's claim
for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB). On November 8, 2016,
this Court entered a judgment vacating the Commissioner's
decision and remanding this matter to the Commissioner under
sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for further
administrative proceedings. (ECF No. 19). On January 6, 2017,
plaintiff filed a stipulation for attorney's fees under
the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), 28 U.S.C. §
2412. (ECF No. 21). For the reasons set forth herein, the
Court will grant plaintiff's stipulation for
attorney's fees, and a judgment will be entered in
plaintiff's favor in the amount of $3, 640.00.
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
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
make an award unjust.
28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(A); see
Astrue v. Ratliff, 560 U.S. 586, 591-93 (2010). A
district court's decision granting or denying a motion
for attorney's fees under the EAJA is reviewed on appeal
under a deferential "abuse of discretion" standard.
DeLong v. Commissioner, 748 F.3d 723, 725 (6th Cir.
Sixth Circuit has identified three conditions that must be
met to recover attorney's fees under the EAJA: (1) the
claimant must be a prevailing party; (2) the government's
position must be without substantial justification; and (3)
there are no special circumstances which would warrant a
denial of fees. See DeLong v. Commissioner, 748 F.3d
at 725. Plaintiff is a prevailing party under this
Court's judgment remanding this matter to the
Commissioner. See Shalala v. Schaefer, 509 U.S. 292,
298 (1993); 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(2)(H). Plaintiff is a
financially eligible person under the EAJA. See 28
U.S.C. § 2412(d)(2)(B). Accordingly, plaintiff is
entitled to an award of attorney's fees under the EAJA.
United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has
cautioned lower courts against "rubber stamping"
EAJA fee applications. See Begley v. Secretary of Health
& Human Servs., 966 F.2d 196, 200 (6th Cir. 1992).
The EAJA requires "an itemized statement from [the]
attorney . . . representing or appearing in behalf of the
party stating the actual time expended and the rate at which
fees and other expenses were computed." 28 U.S.C. §
2412(d)(1)(B). Plaintiff seeks compensation for 20.8 hours in
attorney time. (ECF No. 21, PageID.618; ECF No. 21-1,
a reasonable expenditure of time for representation of a
party seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's final
administrative decision denying claims for DIB and SSI
benefits is in the range of 15 to 30 hours. See Flamboe
v. Commissioner, No. 1:12-cv-606, 2013 WL 1914546, at *
2 (W.D. Mich. May 8, 2013); see also Fredericks v.
Commissioner, No. 1:12-cv-1234, 2014 WL 4057794, at * 2
(W.D. Mich. Aug. 14, 2014); Nichols v. Commissioner,
No. 1:09-cv-1091, 2012 WL 1189764, at * 2 (W.D. Mich. Mar.
19, 2012) (collecting cases). "Unlike other types of
civil cases in which the amount of discovery alone often
creates wide variability in litigation hours, the vast
majority of social security appeals conform to a relatively
narrow range of hours because they involve a largely settled
area of law, require no discovery, and follow a precise
briefing schedule[.]" Flamboe v. Commissioner,
2013 WL 1914546, at * 2 (quoting Crim v.
Commissioner, No. 1:11-cv-137, 2013 WL1063476, at *4
(S.D. Ohio Mar. 14, 2013)).
reviewed the record, the Court finds that 20.8 hours is
reasonable for the work performed in this case.
EAJA generally caps the hourly rate for attorney's fees
at $125 per hour. 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(2)(A). "[T]he
statutory rate is a ceiling and not a floor."
Chipman v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs.,
781 F.2d 545, 547 (6th Cir. 1986). Plaintiff seeks to recover
attorney's fees at a rate of $175 for work performed in
this Court. (ECF No. 21, Page ID.618). The EAJA specifies
that Aattorney's fees shall not be awarded in excess of
$125 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.
Â§2412(d)(2)(A). The Supreme Court has determined that the
statutory $125-per-hour cap applies "in the mine run of
cases." Gisbrecht v. Barnhart, 535 U.S. 789,
consensus has emerged in this Court regarding whether the
State Bar of Michigan's Economics of Law Practice Survey
is sufficient evidence to justify a departure above the
statutory $125 per hour cap to an hourly rate of up to $175
per hour. Compare Sorensen v. Commissioner, No.
1:14-cv-719, 2015 WL 1003098, at *2-4 (W.D. Mich. Mar. 5,
2015) ($125 per hour) with ...