United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
Honorable Laurie J. Michelson
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION TO GRANT PETITIONER'S
APPLICATION FOR ATTORNEY FEES [ECF NO. 21]
ELIZABETH A. STAFFORD, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Disability Law, P.C., counsel for Plaintiff Lori Keller,
seeks an award of $4, 165.40 for attorney fees under the
Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), 28 U.S.C. §2412.
[ECF No. 21]. The requested amount represents 19.2 hours of
attorney work on Keller's behalf at a proposed hourly
rate of $184.50, and 6.23 hours of legal assistant work on
her behalf at a proposed hourly rate of $100.00. The
Commissioner did not respond to the application for fees. The
Court RECOMMENDS that the application for
attorney fees be GRANTED.
the EAJA, a “prevailing party” in a civil action
“brought by or against the United States” is
entitled to reasonable attorney fees incurred in that action
unless “the position of the United States was
substantially justified or … special circumstances
make an award unjust.” 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(A);
§ 2412(d)(2)(A); DeLong v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 748 F.3d 723, 725 (6th Cir. 2014). The Court has
broad discretion in determining whether to award fees under
the EAJA. Fisher v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., No.
2015 WL 4944385, at *1 (E.D. Mich. Aug. 19, 2015) (Drain,
J.). But the Sixth Circuit has cautioned lower courts against
“rubber stamp[ing]” EAJA fee applications,
especially where a party requests an increased hourly rate
based on inflation. Begley v. Sec'y of Health and
Human Servs., 966 F.2d 196, 200 (6th Cir. 1992).
claimant is entitled to attorney fees under EAJA if (1) she
is a prevailing party; (2) the Commissioner's opposing
position was without substantial justification; and (3) there
are no special circumstances that warrant denial of fees.
Cantu v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 2019 WL 2314863,
at *1 (E.D. Mich. May 31, 2019). “The application must
also be filed within thirty days of a court's final
judgment. Only reasonable attorney fees will be
permitted.” Id. (internal citations omitted).
This application meets all these requirements.
stipulation of the parties, the Court remanded for further
agency action pursuant to sentence four of § 405(g).
Keller is thus a prevailing party. Shalala v.
Schaefer, 509 U.S. 292, 301-02 (1993).
“the government's position…was without
substantial justification. ‘[T]he relevant inquiry
concerning the government's position was whether it was
reasonable for the Commissioner to defend the ALJ's
decision to deny benefits.'” Cantu, 2019
WL 2314863, at *1 (quoting Ratliff v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 465 Fed.Appx. 459, 460 (6th Cir. 2012)). A
position is substantially justified if it could satisfy a
reasonable person that it was reasonable under both law and
fact. Id. The government carries the burden of
showing that its position was substantially justified.
Delong, 748 F.3d at 725-26 (citing Scarborough
v. Principi, 541 U.S. 401, 414-15 (2004)). Because the
Commissioner did not respond to the application for fees, it
has not met this burden. Cantu, 2019 WL 2314863, at
*1. (collecting cases). The Commissioner's
stipulation to remand evidences the government's lack of
substantial justification in defending the ALJ's decision
to deny benefits.
application was timely filed, and the Commissioner has not
advanced any special circumstance warranting denial. See
amount of the fees requested is reasonable. In contemplating
what constitutes “reasonable ...