Matthews v. Social Security Administration Commissioner
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER granting 22 Motion for Attorney Fees, in favor of Brandy Matthews against Social Security Administration Commissioner ; Plaintiff is awarded the sum of $5,274.00 for attorneys feespursuant to the EAJA, 28 U.S.C. § 2412. Signed by Honorable Mark E. Ford on November 14, 2023. (tmc)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
FORT SMITH DIVISION
CIVIL NO. 2:22-cv-02115-MEF
KILOLO KIJAKAZI, Acting Commissioner,
Social Security Administration
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Pending now before this Court is Plaintiff’s Motion for Attorney Fees Under the Equal
Access to Justice Act. (ECF Nos. 22, 23). The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of a
Magistrate Judge to conduct all proceedings in this case, and pursuant to said authority, the Court
issues this Order. (ECF No. 4).
On October 25, 2023, Plaintiff filed a motion for attorney’s fees and costs under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2412, the Equal Access to Justice Act (hereinafter “EAJA”), requesting $5,274.00, representing
a total of 24.00 attorney hours for work performed in 2022 and 2023 at an hourly rate of $206.00,
and 4.40 paralegal hours at an hourly rate of $75.00. (ECF No. 23-2). On October 25, 2023, the
Defendant filed a response voicing no objections. (ECF No. 24).
It is the opinion of the undersigned that the Plaintiff is entitled to a fee award in this case,
as she is the prevailing party, the government’s decision to deny benefits was not substantially
justified, the hourly rate requested for both attorney and paralegal hours does not exceed the CPI
for either year in question, and the time asserted to have been spent in the representation of the
Plaintiff before the district court is reasonable. See Jackson v. Bowen, 807 F.2d 127, 128 (8th Cir.
1986) (burden is on the Commissioner to show substantial justification for the government’s denial
of benefits); 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(2)(A) (statutory ceiling for an EAJA fee award is $125.00 per
hour); Johnson v. Sullivan, 919 F.2d 503, 504-505 (8th Cir. 1990) (court may determine that there
has been an increase in the cost of living, and may thereby increase the attorney’s rate per hour,
based upon the United States Department of Labor’s Consumer Price Index (“CPI”)); and, Hensley
v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 430 (1983) (in determining reasonableness, court looks at time and
labor required; the difficulty of questions involved; the skill required to handle the problems
presented; the attorney’s experience, ability, and reputation; the benefits resulting to the client
from the services; the customary fee for similar services; the contingency or certainty of
compensation; the results obtained; and, the amount involved). Accordingly, Plaintiff is entitled
to an attorney’s fee award under EAJA in the amount of $5,274.00.
Pursuant to Astrue v. Ratliff, 560 U.S. 586, 596 (2010), the EAJA fee award should be
made payable to Plaintiff. However, if the Plaintiff has executed a valid assignment to Plaintiff’s
attorney of all rights in a fee award and Plaintiff owes no outstanding debt to the federal
government, the attorney’s fee may be awarded directly to Plaintiff’s attorney.
The parties are reminded that, in order to prevent double recovery by counsel for the
Plaintiff, the award herein under the EAJA will be taken into account at such time as a reasonable
fee is determined pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 406.
Based upon the foregoing, Plaintiff is awarded the sum of $5,274.00 for attorney’s fees
pursuant to the EAJA, 28 U.S.C. § 2412.
Dated this 14th day of November 2023.
/s/ Mark E. Ford
HONORABLE MARK E. FORD
CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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