United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
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
claims for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB). On June 5,
2017, this Court entered a judgment vacating the
Commissioner's decision and remanding this matter back to
the Commissioner under sentence four of 42 U.S.C. §
405(g) for further administrative proceedings. (ECF No. 25).
On July 14, 2017, plaintiff filed a motion for attorney's
fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), 28 U.S.C.
§ 2412. (ECF No. 26). The Commissioner does not oppose
the motion. (ECF No. 27). For the reasons set forth herein,
plaintiff's motion will be granted in part and denied in
part, and judgment will be entered in plaintiff's favor
in the amount of $4, 803.75.
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); 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. 2014).
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 that would warrant a
denial of fees. See DeLong, 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). Defendant does not oppose an EAJA award. (ECF
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 on 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 27.45 hours
in attorney time. (ECF No. 26, PageID.1154).
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,
Court finds that 27.45 hours in attorney time 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. 26, Page ID.1155-56,
1159-60). The EAJA specifies that “attorney'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. ...