Blango v. Saul
ORDER. For the reasons set forth in the attached Order, the Court APPROVES and SO ORDERS the parties' Fee Stipulation (Doc. # 26 ) and GRANTS, in part, the Motion for Attorney's Fees (Doc. # 25 ), for the stipulated amount of $8,675.00. It is so ordered. Signed by Judge Sarah A. L. Merriam on 6/4/2021. (Weis, Anne)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
ANDREW M. SAUL,
Civ. No. 3:20CV00306(SALM)
June 4, 2021
ORDER AWARDING PLAINTIFF ATTORNEY’S FEES UNDER THE
EQUAL ACCESS TO JUSTICE ACT
Plaintiff Winferd B. (“plaintiff”) filed concurrent
applications for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) on April 18, 2017, alleging
disability beginning on January 1, 1999. See Certified Transcript
of the Administrative Record, Doc. #15, compiled on July 1, 2020,
(hereinafter “Tr.”) at 363-74. Plaintiff’s applications were
denied initially on September 28, 2017, see Tr. 228-29, and upon
reconsideration on January 29, 2018. See Tr. 264-65. Prior to the
administrative hearing, plaintiff withdrew his claim for DIB and
amended his alleged disability onset date to March 31, 2017. See
On December 6, 2018, Administrative Law Judge Eskunder Boyd
held a hearing at which plaintiff appeared with attorney Mark
Weaver and testified. See Tr. 114-61. On December 20, 2018, ALJ
Boyd issued an unfavorable ruling. See Tr. 16-37. On January 30,
2020, the Appeals Council denied review, thereby rendering ALJ
Boyd’s decision the final decision of the Commissioner. See Tr. 17. Plaintiff, represented by Attorney Olia Yelner, timely appealed
that decision to this Court on March 9, 2020. See Doc. #1.
On March 2, 2021, the undersigned granted plaintiff’s Motion
to Reverse the Decision of the Commissioner (Doc. #17), and
remanded the case for further administrative proceedings. See Doc.
#23. Judgment entered for plaintiff on March 3, 2021. See Doc.
On May 24, 2021, plaintiff filed a Motion for Attorney’s Fees
Pursuant to the Equal Access to Justice Act (“EAJA”), requesting
an award of $9,115.20. See Doc. #25. In the Motion, plaintiff
stated that he “sought a stipulated agreement with Defendant’s
attorney, but none has been reached yet.” Id. at 1. Plaintiff
attached to the Motion an itemization of the hours plaintiff’s
counsel spent prosecuting the case. See Doc. #25-1.
On June 2, 2021, plaintiff filed a joint Stipulation for
Allowance of Fees Under the EAJA (hereinafter the “Fee
Stipulation”), agreeing that the Commissioner should pay fees in
the amount of $8,675.00. See Doc. #26. Although the parties have
reached an agreement as to the appropriate award of fees in this
matter, the Court is obligated to review the fee application and
determine whether the proposed fee award is reasonable. “[T]he
determination of a reasonable fee under the EAJA is for the court
rather than the parties by way of stipulation.” Pribek v. Sec’y,
Dep’t of Health & Human Servs., 717 F. Supp. 73, 75 (W.D.N.Y.
1989) (citation and quotation marks omitted); see also Rogers v.
Colvin, No. 4:13CV00945(TMC), 2014 WL 630907, at *1 (D.S.C. Feb.
18, 2014); Design & Prod., Inc. v. United States, 21 Cl. Ct. 145,
152 (1990) (holding that under the EAJA, “it is the court’s
responsibility to independently assess the appropriateness and
measure of attorney’s fees to be awarded in a particular case,
whether or not an amount is offered as representing the agreement
of the parties in the form of a proposed stipulation”). The Court
therefore has reviewed plaintiff’s itemization of hours incurred
to determine whether the stipulated amount is reasonable.
For the reasons set forth herein, the Court APPROVES and SO
ORDERS the parties’ Fee Stipulation [Doc. #26], and GRANTS, in
part, plaintiff’s Motion for Attorney’s Fees [Doc. #25], for the
stipulated amount of $8,675.00.
A party who prevails in a civil action against the United
States may seek an award of fees and costs under the EAJA, 28
U.S.C. §2412, the purpose of which is “to eliminate for the
average person the financial disincentive to challenging
unreasonable government actions.” Commissioner, I.N.S. v. Jean,
496 U.S. 154, 163 (1990) (citing Sullivan v. Hudson, 490 U.S. 877,
883 (1989)). In order for an award of attorney’s fees to enter,
this Court must find (1) that the plaintiff is a prevailing party,
(2) that the Commissioner’s position was without substantial
justification, (3) that no special circumstances exist that would
make an award unjust, and (4) that the fee petition was filed
within thirty days of final judgment. See 28 U.S.C.
In the itemization of the hours incurred in prosecuting this
matter, plaintiff’s attorney asserts that she performed 43.2 hours
of work. See Doc. #25-1 at 1-2. The parties have reached an
agreement under which defendant would pay a total of $8,675.00 in
fees. See Doc. #26. For 43.2 hours, this amounts to an hourly rate
of $201.00. It is plaintiff’s burden to establish entitlement to a
fee award, and the Court has the discretion to determine what fee
is “reasonable.” Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433, 437
(1983) (interpreting 42 U.S.C. §1988, which allows a “prevailing
party” to recover “a reasonable attorney’s fee as part of the
costs”).1 This Court has a duty to review plaintiff’s itemized time
log to determine the reasonableness of the hours requested and to
exclude hours “that are excessive, redundant, or otherwise
unnecessary[.]” Id. at 434. “Determining a ‘reasonable attorney’s
fee’ is a matter that is committed to the sound discretion of a
The “standards set forth in [Hensley] are generally applicable in
all cases in which Congress has authorized an award of fees to a
‘prevailing party.’” Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433 n.7.
trial judge.” J.O. v. Astrue, No. 3:11CV01768(DFM), 2014 WL
1031666, at *1 (D. Conn. Mar. 14, 2014) (quoting Perdue v. Kenny
A., 559 U.S. 542, 558 (2010)).
Here, the Court finds that plaintiff has satisfied the
requirements of 28 U.S.C. §2412(d)(1)(B), and that an award of
fees may enter. Specifically, the Court finds that: (1) plaintiff
is a prevailing party in light of the Court having partially
granted plaintiff’s Motion to Reverse the Decision of the
Commissioner and having ordered a remand of this matter for
further administrative proceedings; (2) the Commissioner’s
position was without substantial justification; (3) on the current
record, no special circumstances exist that would make an award
unjust; and (4) the fee petition was timely filed.2
See 28 U.S.C.
Plaintiff’s motion is timely as it was filed within thirty days
after the time to appeal the final judgment had expired. See
Melkonyan v. Sullivan, 501 U.S. 89, 96 (1991) (“[A] ‘final
judgment’ for purposes of 28 U.S.C. §2412(d)(1)(B) means a
judgment rendered by a court that terminates the civil action for
which EAJA fees may be received. The 30–day EAJA clock begins to
run after the time to appeal that ‘final judgment’ has expired.”).
“The notice of appeal may be filed by any party within 60 days
after entry of the judgment” in cases where, as here, one of the
parties is “a United States officer or employee sued in an
official capacity[.]” Fed. R. App. P. 4(a)(1)(B), (B)(iii). Thus,
in this case, the 30-day EAJA clock began to run on May 3, 2021,
60 days after judgment for plaintiff entered. Plaintiff timely
filed his motion on May 24, 2021. See Doc. #25.
§2412(d)(1)(B). The Court next turns to the reasonableness of the
In this case, plaintiff’s counsel seeks payment for 43.2
hours of attorney time. See Doc. #25-1 at 2. The administrative
transcript in this case was comprised of a substantial 2,841
pages. See Doc. #15. Because counsel did not represent plaintiff
during the administrative proceedings, additional time would have
been required for counsel to become familiar with the voluminous
record. The Court finds 43.2 hours reasonable for the work
claimed, including: review of the administrative transcript [Doc.
#15]; preparation of plaintiff’s Medical Chronology [Doc. #19];
and preparation of the Motion to Reverse the Decision of the
Commissioner [Doc. #17]. Cf. Rodriguez v. Astrue, No.
3:08CV00154(JCH)(HBF), 2009 WL 6319262, at *3 (D. Conn. Sept. 3,
2009) (“Relevant factors to weigh include the size of the
administrative record, the complexity of the factual and legal
issues involved, counsel’s experience, and whether counsel
represented the claimant during the administrative proceedings.”
(citations and quotation marks omitted)); see also Lechner v.
Barnhart, 330 F. Supp. 2d 1005, 1012 (E.D. Wis. 2004); cf. Barbour
v. Colvin, 993 F. Supp. 2d 284, 291 (E.D.N.Y. 2014). While
“[c]ourts throughout the Second Circuit have consistently found
that routine Social Security cases require, on average, between
[twenty] and [forty] hours of attorney time to prosecute[,]”
Poulin v. Astrue, No. 3:10CV01930(JBA)(JGM), 2012 WL 264579, at *3
(D. Conn. Jan. 27, 2012)(citations and quotation marks omitted),
“the twenty to forty hours estimate is an ‘average,’ which
indicates that some cases may require [fewer] hours and some cases
may require more hours.” Bathrick v. Astrue, No. 3:11CV00101(VLB),
2015 WL 3870268, at *4 (D. Conn. June 23, 2015). Here, the Court
finds that finds that the 43.2 hours claimed is reasonable,
particularly considering the length of the transcript in this
case. Cf. Poulin, 2012 WL 264579, at *3 (reducing the number of
hours from 44.25 to 38.25 where “the transcript was ‘merely’ 435
pages”); Wks. v. Colvin, No. 3:13CV00232(JCH)(HBF), 2015 WL
1395907, at *5 (D. Conn. Mar. 25, 2015), objections overruled,
2015 WL 3453358 (reducing the number of hours from 69.1 hours to
40.3 hours where the “administrative record totaled 609 pages”).
Accordingly, the Court finds that the stipulated time is
reasonable, particularly in light of the parties’ agreement, which
adds weight to the claim that the fee award claimed is reasonable.
Therefore, an award of $8,675.00 in fees is appropriate.
Accordingly, the Court APPROVES and SO ORDERS the parties’
Fee Stipulation [Doc. #26], and GRANTS, in part, plaintiff’s
Motion for Attorney’s Fees [Doc. #25], for the stipulated amount
SO ORDERED at New Haven, Connecticut this 4th day of June,
Hon. Sarah A. L. Merriam
United States Magistrate Judge
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?