United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
Ronald W. Kiser, Plaintiff,
Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
PHILLIP J. GREEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
a social security action brought under 42 U.S.C. §
405(g) seeking review of a final decision of the Commissioner
of Social Security finding that plaintiff was not entitled to
disability insurance benefits (DIB) and supplemental security
income (SSI) benefits under Titles II and XVI of the Social
Security Act. On July 13, 2017, Chief Judge Robert J. Jonker
issued an opinion finding that the Administrative Law
Judge's decision was not supported by substantial
evidence. (ECF No. 14). Judgment was entered vacating the
Commissioner's decision and remanding the case for
further administrative proceedings under sentence four of 42
U.S.C. § 405(g). (ECF No. 15).
matter is now before the Court on plaintiff's unopposed
motion (ECF No. 16), which is supported by the parties'
stipulation (ECF No. 18) for attorney's fees under the
Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), 28 U.S.C. § 2412.
For the reasons set forth herein, I recommend that
plaintiff's unopposed motion be dismissed as moot and
that the joint stipulation be granted, and that a judgment be
entered in plaintiffs favor in the amount of $4, 156.25.
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 Aabuse 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 that would warrant a
denial of fees. See DeLong v. Commoner, 748 F.3d at
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).
Through her stipulation, the Commissioner concurs that there
is no special circumstance that would warrant denial of fees,
and that the government's position was not substantially
justified. (ECF No. 18, PageID.863). Accordingly, plaintiff
is entitled to an award of attorney's fees under the
EAJA. See 28 U.S.C. § 2412(a)(1), (b).
a court makes a threshold determination that a party is
eligible for EAJA fees, it looks to the lodestar amount as a
starting point for calculating a reasonable fee award.”
Minor v. Commissioner, 826 F.3d 878, 881(6thCir.
2016). The 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).
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 23.75
hours in attorney time. (ECF No. 18, PageID.863).
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)). Having reviewed the record, I find that 23.75 hours
is a reasonable amount of time expended on the work performed
in this case.