Evans v. Colvin
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER entered GRANTING 23 Motion for Attorney Fees (EAJA) in the amount of $2,066.42 and $492.96 in court costs and litigation expenses, as more fully set out in Order. Signed by Magistrate Judge Bert W. Milling, Jr on 5/8/2015. (clr)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
CAROLYN W. COLVIN,
Commission of Social Security,
CIVIL ACTION 14-0303-CG-M
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Pending before the Court is Evans’s Attorney’s Application
for Attorney Fees Under the Equal Access to Justice Act
(hereinafter EAJA), with supporting Documentation (Doc. 23), and
Defendant’s Response (Doc. 24).
After considering the pertinent
pleadings, it is ORDERED that the Motion be GRANTED and that
Plaintiff be AWARDED an EAJA attorney’s fee in the amount of
$2,066.42 and $492.96 in court costs and litigation expenses.
Plaintiff filed this action on June 30, 2014 (Doc. 1).
March 12, 2015, the undersigned Judge entered a Memorandum
Opinion and Order, reversing the decision of the Commissioner,
and remanding this action for further proceedings (Doc. 21).
Judgment was entered in favor of Plaintiff and against Defendant
On April 10, 2015, William T. Coplin, Jr., Plaintiff’s
Attorney, filed an EAJA Fee Application requesting a fee of
$2,066.42, computed at an hourly rate of $189.58 for 10.9 hours
spent in this Court; additionally, Coplin requests $492.96 in
court costs and expenses (Doc. 23).
Defendant, in her Response
filed on April 20, stated that she had no objection to the
requested fee, noting that payment should be made to Plaintiff
rather than to her Attorney (Doc. 24).
The EAJA requires a court to
award to a prevailing party . . . 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).
EAJA further requires that a
prevailing party file an application for attorney’s fees within
thirty days of final judgment in the action.
28 U.S.C. §
The court’s judgment is final sixty days after
it is entered, which is the time in which an appeal may be taken
pursuant to Rule 4(a) of the Federal Rules of Appellate
See Shalala v. Schaefer, 509 U.S. 292 (1993).
As set out above, three statutory conditions must be
satisfied before EAJA fees may be awarded.
See Myers v.
Sullivan, 916 F.2d 659, 666 (11th Cir. 1990).
claimant must file a fee application within the thirty-day
period; also, the claimant must be a prevailing party.
the Government’s position must not be substantially justified.
Defendant apparently concedes all three EAJA requirements
(see Doc. 24).
The Court finds that they have been met.
Having found the prerequisites satisfied, the Court will
discuss the fee to be awarded.
EAJA is a fee-shifting statute.
The Supreme Court has indicated that “‘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.’”
Watford v. Heckler, 765 F.2d
1562, 1586 (11th Cir. 1985 (EAJA) (quoting Hensley v. Eckerhartt,
461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983) (§ 1988)).
In describing this lodestar
method of calculation, the United States Supreme Court stated:
This calculation provides an objective basis
on which to make an initial estimate of the
value of a lawyer’s services. The party
seeking an award of fees should submit
evidence supporting the hours worked and the
rates claimed. Where the documentation of
hours is inadequate, the district court may
reduce the award accordingly. The district
court also should exclude from this initial
fee calculation hours that were not
“reasonably expended.” . . . Cases may be
overstaffed, and the skill and experience of
lawyers vary widely. Counsel for the
prevailing party should make a good-faith
effort to exclude from a fee request hours
that are excessive, redundant, or otherwise
unnecessary, just as a lawyer in private
practice ethically is obligated to exclude
such hours from his fee submission. In the
private sector, ‘billing judgment’ is an
important component in fee setting. It is
no less important here. Hours that are not
properly billed to one’s client also are not
properly billed to one’s adversary pursuant
to statutory authority.
Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434 (citations omitted).
professional judgment in billing under EAJA.
Counsel must use
A lawyer should
only be compensated for hours spent on activities for which he
would bill a client of means who was seriously intent on
vindicating similar rights.
Norman v. Housing Authority, 836
F.2d 1292, 1301 (11th Cir. 1988).
After examining Plaintiff’s Attorneys’ Application, and
supporting documentation, and considering the reasonableness of
the hours claimed, the Court finds that the 10.9 hours Coplin
spent prosecuting this action is reasonable.
In determining the hourly rate to apply in a given EAJA
case, statutory language states as follows:
The amount of fees awarded under this
subsection shall be based upon prevailing
market rates for the kind and quality of the
services furnished, except that . . .
attorney 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, justified a higher
28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(2)(A) (Supp. 1997).
In Meyer v. Sullivan, 958 F.2d 1029 (11th Cir. 1992), the
Eleventh Circuit determined that the EAJA establishes a two-step
analysis for determining the appropriate hourly rate to be
applied in calculating attorney’s fees under the Act:
The first step in the analysis, . . . is to
determine the market rate for “similar
services [provided] by lawyers of reasonably
comparable skills, experience, and
reputation.” . . . The second step, which is
needed only if the market rate is greater
than $75 per hour, is to determine whether
the court should adjust the hourly fee
upward . . . to take into account an
increase in the cost of living, or a special
Meyer, 958 F.2d at 1033-34 (citations and footnote omitted).1
The applicant bears the burden of producing satisfactory
Subsequent to Meyer, the cap was raised from $75.00 per hour to
evidence that the requested rate is in line with prevailing
NAACP V. City of Evergreen, 812 F.2d 1332, 1338
(11th Cir. 1987).
Satisfactory evidence at a minimum is more
than the affidavit of the attorney performing the work.
Stenson, 465 U.S. 886, 895 n.11 (1984).
Where the fees or time
claimed seem expanded or there is lack of documentation or
testimony in support thereof, the court may make an award on its
Norman v. City of Montgomery, 836 F.2d 1292,
1303 (11th Cir. 1988).
Where the documentation is inadequate,
the court is not relieved of its obligation to award a
reasonable fee, but, traditionally, it has had the power to make
an award with no need of further pleadings or an evidentiary
Beginning in 2001, the prevailing market rate in the
Southern District of Alabama was $125.00 per hour.
Smith v. Massanari, Civil Action 00-0812-P-M (S.D. Ala. October
25, 2001); and Square v. Halter, Civil Action 00-0516-BH-L (S.D.
Ala. April 12, 2001).
However, in 2007, U.S. Magistrate Judge
Cassady fashioned a formula to adjust the prevailing market
hourly rate to account for the ever increasing cost-of-living.
Lucy v. Barnhart, Civil Action 06-0147-C (S.D. Ala. July 5, 2007
$125.00 per hour, as set out above in 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(2)(A).
As set out in Lucy, the formula to be used in
calculating all future awards of attorney’s fees under the EAJA
is as follows:
“‘($125/hour) x (CPI-U Annual Average “All Items
Index,” South Urban, for month and year of temporal
midpoint2)/152.4, where 152.4 equals the CPI-U of March 1996, the
month and year in which the $125 cap was enacted’” (Lucy, Doc.
32, at p. 11) (quoting Lucy, Doc. 31, at p. 2).
also adopts this formula in EAJA fee petition actions for use in
arriving at the appropriate hourly rate.
The complaint was prepared on June 17, 2014 (Doc. 23,
Attachment 3) and the Court entered its Memorandum Opinion and
Order and Judgment on March 12, 2015 (Docs. 23-24), so the
temporal midpoint in this action was October 29, 2014.
U for October 2014 was 231.13.
Plugging the relevant numbers
into the foregoing formula renders the following equation:
$125.00 x 231.13/152.4, the computation of which renders an
hourly rate of $189.58.
This hourly rate for 10.9 hours equals
The Court notes that, in the application for Attorney’s
“The appropriate endpoint for computing the cost of living
adjustment is the temporal midpoint of the period during which the
compensable services were rendered[;] . . . [t]he temporal midpoint is
calculated by computing the number of days from the date the claim
was prepared until the date of the Magistrate or District Judge’s
Order and Judgment.” Lucy v. Barnhart. Civil Action 06-0147-C (S.D.
Fees, Counsel for Plaintiff requests that any award of
attorney’s fees be paid to him rather than to Plaintiff (Doc.
23, p. 1).
The Government argues that payment should only go to
the Plaintiff (Doc. 24).
As noted earlier, EAJA allows a Court to make an “award to
a prevailing party.”
28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(A).
In Panola Land
Buying Ass’n v. Clark, 844 F.2d 1506, 1509 (11th Cir. 1988), the
Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals stated that “[i]t is readily
apparent that the party eligible to recover attorneys’ fees
under the EAJA as part of its litigation expenses is the
See also Reeves v. Astrue, 526 F.3d 732, 738
(11th Cir.), cert. denied, 555 U.S. 1072 (2008) (“We conclude the
EAJA means what it says:
attorney’s fees are awarded to the
‘prevailing party,’ not to the prevailing party’s attorney”).
The United States Supreme Court, in the unanimous decision of
Astrue v. Ratliff, 560 U.S. 586, 589 (2010), held “that a §
2412(d) fees award is payable to the litigant and is therefore
subject to a Government offset to satisfy a pre-existing debt
that the litigant owes the United States,” removing any doubt as
to whom the award should be paid.
Under the reasoning of Reeves
and Ratliff, the Court finds that the award should be paid to
Ala. Doc. 31, at p. 3).
Plaintiff Richard Evans and not to his Attorney.
The Court further notes that Coplin also seeks
reimbursement for the $400.00 filing fee paid on Evans’s behalf
when the complaint was filed (see Doc. 23, Attachment 3; see
also Docket Sheet Entry for Doc. 1).
Counsel also seeks
expenses in the amount of $80.00 for service of process on the
United States Attorney, $6.48 for certified mail to the Regional
Chief Counsel, and $6.48 for certified mail to the Attorney
General; this totals $92.96 in expenses (Doc. 23, Attachment 3).
It is clear that court costs and expenses are compensable
Davis v. Apfel, 2000 WL 1658575, *4 (M.D. Fla.
August 14, 2000) (“The EAJA also authorizes the award of ‘costs’
28 U.S.C. § 2412(a)(1) & ((d)(1)(A).
undisputed that Davis incurred $150.00 in costs in the form of
the filing fee.
She is entitled to recover this amount”); see
also Huitt v. Apfel, 2000 WL 726914, *3 (S.D. Ala. May 25, 2000)
(“[P]laintiff is entitled to court costs of $150.00 and expenses
of litigation in the amount of $56.40” for service of process
and certified mail postage).
Therefore, Plaintiff is entitled
to recover the $400.00 filing fee and the $92.96 in litigation
expenses paid in this action.
The filing fee portion and
litigation expenses of the EAJA award are to be reimbursed from
the Judgment Fund administered by the United States Department
See Reeves v. Barnhart, 473 F.Supp.2d 1173, 1174
(M.D. Ala. 2007), aff’d sub nom. Reeves v. Astrue, 526 F.3d 732
(11th Cir.), cert. denied, 555 U.S. 1072 (2008).
In conclusion, it is ORDERED that Plaintiff’s Application
be GRANTED as set out above and that Plaintiff be AWARDED an
EAJA Attorney’s fee in the amount of $2,066.42 plus $492.96 in
court costs and litigation expenses.
DONE this 8th day of May, 2015.
s/BERT W. MILLING, JR.
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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