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Devellis v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

May 29, 2018

DENISE C. DEVELLIS, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          Nancy G. Edmunds District Judge.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          MONA K. MAJZOUB UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Denise Devellis filed this action seeking judicial review of Defendant Commissioner of Social Security's determination that she is not entitled to benefits under the Social Security Act. (Docket no. 1.) The parties stipulated to remand the case to the Commissioner for further administrative action. (Docket no. 25.) Before the Court is Plaintiff's Application for Attorney Fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA). (Docket no. 26.) This matter has been referred to the undersigned for issuance of a Report and Recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). (Docket no. 27.) Having reviewed the pleadings, the Court dispenses with a hearing pursuant to Eastern District of Michigan Local Rule 7.1(f)(2) and issues this Report and Recommendation.

         I. RECOMMENDATION

         For the reasons that follow, it is recommended that Plaintiff's Application for Attorney Fees (docket no. 26) be GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         II. RECOMMENDATION

         A. Procedural History

         On April 11, 2011, Plaintiff applied for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits, alleging that she had been disabled since May 11, 2009. (TR 129.) On September 7, 2012, Administrative Law Judge Paul Jones issued an unfavorable decision on Plaintiff's claims. (TR 12-23.) On July 14, 2016, Plaintiff filed a complaint seeking judicial review. (Docket no. 1.) On March 29, 2016, Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment (docket no. 20) and a motion for leave to file excess pages pursuant to Rule 7.1(d)(3) of the Local Rules of the Eastern District of Michigan (docket no. 21). In a text-only order, the Court denied Plaintiff's motion for leave to file excess pages and struck the originally filed motion for summary judgment. On the same date, Plaintiff filed an amended motion for summary judgment, which did not exceed the 25-page limit of Rule 7.1(d)(3). On May 26, 2017, the parties entered a stipulated judgment remanding this matter to the Commissioner for further administrative proceedings. (Docket no. 25.) Before the Court is Plaintiff's motion for attorney fees, which was filed on August 23, 2017. (Docket no. 26.)

         B. Law and Analysis

         Plaintiff seeks an award reimbursing legal fees of $6, 534.00 and costs of $86.90 pursuant to the Equal Access to Justice Act (“EAJA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2412.

         The EAJA provides that a court shall award attorney fees and expenses to a prevailing party (other than the United States) in any civil action brought against the United States, unless the position of the government was substantially justified. 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(A). As noted above, the Parties stipulated to remand this matter to the Commissioner for additional proceedings. (Docket no. 25.) Accordingly, Defendant “agrees with plaintiff that an EAJA award is warranted in this case.” (Docket no. 29, p. 2.) However, Defendant objects to (1) the asserted amount of Plaintiff's expenses, and (2) the reasonableness of certain legal fees requested by Plaintiff.

         Attorney's fees claimed under the EAJA must be reasonable. Glass v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 822 F.2d 19, 21 (6th Cir. 1987). “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.” Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983). The Sixth Circuit has recognized that “the rate-times-hours method of calculation, also known as the ‘lodestar' approach, includes most, if not all, of the factors relevant to determining a reasonable attorney's fee.” Glass, 822 F.2d at 21 (citing Coulter v. State of Tenn., 805 F.2d 146, 149 (6th Cir. 1986)).

         Plaintiff's counsel submitted a schedule of services provided to Plaintiff in connection with this case, including the date of the service, the time expended, and a description of the work involved. (Docket no. 26-2.) Claiming to have expended 36.3 hours at a rate of $180 per hour, Plaintiff's counsel seeks reimbursement of $6, 534.00. (Docket no. 26-4.)

         1. Motion for Summary ...


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