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Jones v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

June 15, 2018

DUSTIN JONES, by AMY JONES, guardian, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR ATTORNEY FEES [DOC. # 21]

          Victoria A. Roberts United States District Judge.

         Pursuant to the Equal Access to Justice Act (“EAJA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d), Dustin Jones (“Jones”) requests that the Court award attorney fees, paid by the Social Security Commissioner (“Commissioner”). Jones requests that these fees be paid directly to his attorney.

         The only issue is whether Jones timely filed his motion. The Court finds that he did. This motion is GRANTED.

         I. Background

         Jones filed a complaint against the Commissioner, appealing an administrative decision denying him Social Security benefits. The parties filed cross motions for summary judgment. Magistrate Judge Mona K. Majzoub issued a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) to reverse the Commissioner's decision, grant Jones' motion for summary judgment, and deny the Commissioner's motion for summary judgment. Neither party filed objections to the R&R, and the Court issued an order adopting the R&R and remanding the case to the Commissioner.

         Jones filed this motion, seeking attorney fees under the EAJA. Jones asks for $2, 668.75, billed at a rate of $175 per hour, to be paid directly to his attorney. He also asks for $262.75 for time spent by his attorney's staff, at a rate of $75 per hour. He attaches an affidavit itemizing these fees. In total, Jones requests $2, 931.25. There is a question concerning the timeliness of this motion.

         The Court finds that the motion is timely filed under Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(a)(1)(B), despite United States v. Walters, 638 F.2d 947, 950 (6th Cir. 1981), and grants Jones' motion.

         II. Legal Standard

         Under the EAJA, “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). A plaintiff must satisfy three conditions to recover attorney fees: “(1) [Plaintiff] must be a ‘prevailing party'; (2) the Government's opposing position must have been without substantial justification; and (3) there must be no special circumstances that warrant denying relief.” DeLong v. Comm'r of SSA, 748 F.3d 723, 725 (6th Cir. 2014).

         A party seeking an award of fees must apply within thirty days of the final judgment in the action. 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(B). The EAJA defines “final judgment” as one that is final and not appealable. 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(2)(G).

         III. Analysis

         A. Jones' Motion Is Timely

         The Commissioner agrees that Jones is the prevailing party; he obtained a judgment and remand pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Shalala v. Schaefer, 509 U.S. 292, 302 (1993). Additionally, the Commissioner does not argue that substantial justification or special circumstances warrant a denial of fees. The Commissioner concedes that Jones is entitled to an award of attorney fees, if his motion was timely filed.

         The issue of timeliness depends on whether the judgment became final on November 16, 2017 via the Walters rule - when the Court adopted the R&R - or sixty days after that - on January 15, 2018 - via Fed. R. App. P. 4(a)(1)(B). If the Court applies the Walters rule, Jones would need to have filed this motion by December 15, 2017. If the Court applies Rule 4(a)(1)(B), the judgment would have been final on January 15, 2018, sixty days ...


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