Gilbranson v. Saul
ORDER. For the reasons stated in the attached Order, the court APPROVES and SO ORDERS the parties' 26 Stipulation, and GRANTS the 28 Motion for Attorney Fees for the stipulated amount of $6,001.90. Signed by Judge Sarah A. L. Merriam on 10/06/2021. (McCallum, C.)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
ROLAND G. G.
ACTING COMMISSIONER, SOCIAL
Civ. No. 3:20CV01784(SRU)
October 6, 2021
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR ATTORNEY’S FEES IN
ACCORDANCE WITH THE STIPULATION OF THE PARTIES
Plaintiff Roland G. G. (“plaintiff”) seeks an award of fees
pursuant to the Equal Access to Justice Act (hereinafter
“EAJA”). Plaintiff filed concurrent applications for Disability
Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) on September 4, 2018, 1 alleging disability beginning July
1, 2016. See Certified Transcript of the Administrative Record,
Doc. #13, compiled on March 11, 2021, (hereinafter “Tr.”) at
274-86. Plaintiff later amended the date of the onset of his
disability to April 29, 2017. See Tr. 43-44. Plaintiff’s
There is a discrepancy regarding the date plaintiff’s
applications for DIB and SSI were filed. The Administrative Law
Judge’s decision, see Tr. 15, and Plaintiff’s Memorandum of Law
in Support of His Motion for Order Reversing the Decision of the
Commissioner, see Doc. #18-1 at 1, indicate an application date
of August 17, 2018. However, plaintiff’s applications for DIB
and SSI are both dated September 4, 2018. See Tr. 274, 278. This
discrepancy has no bearing on the Court’s ruling on plaintiff’s
request for attorney’s fees.
applications were denied initially on October 30, 2018, see Tr.
91-120, and upon reconsideration on February 5, 2019. See Tr.
On November 7, 2019, plaintiff, represented by Attorney
Richard B. Grabow, appeared and testified at a hearing before
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) John Aletta. See generally Tr.
39-90. On December 10, 2019, the ALJ issued an unfavorable
decision. See Tr. 12-36. On October 9, 2020, the Appeals Council
denied plaintiff’s request for review of the ALJ’s decision,
thereby making the ALJ’s December 10, 2019, decision the final
decision of the Commissioner. See Tr. 1-6. Plaintiff timely
appealed that decision to this court on December 1, 2020. [Doc.
#1]. On January 4, 2021, Chief Judge Stefan R. Underhill
referred this matter to the undersigned “for all purposes
including issuing a Recommended Ruling.” Doc. #9.
On March 22, 2021, after having received an extension of
time, see Doc. #12, the Commissioner (hereinafter the
“defendant” or the “Commissioner”) filed the official
transcript. [Doc. #13]. On June 3, 2021, after also having
received an extension of time, see Doc. #16, plaintiff filed a
Motion to Reverse the Decision of the Commissioner. See Doc.
#18. On August 30, 2021, again after having received an
extension of time, see Doc. #21, defendant filed a Consent
Motion to Remand to Agency Under Sentence Four of 42 U.S.C.
§405(g). [Doc. #23]. On September 1, 2021, Judge Underhill
granted defendant’s Consent Motion to Remand. See Doc. #24.
Judgment entered for plaintiff on that same date. [Doc. #25].
On September 29, 2021, defendant filed a Stipulation for
Allowance of Attorney’s Fees Under the Equal Access to Justice
Act (hereinafter the “Stipulation”). [Doc. #26]. The Stipulation
states that the parties have agreed “that Plaintiff shall be
awarded attorney fees in the amount of $6,001.90 under the
[EAJA] in full and final satisfaction (upon payment) of any and
all claims under EAJA.” Id. at 1. On September 30, 2021, the
Court ordered plaintiff to submit “an accounting of fees sought
in compliance with the statute including the number of hours
claimed; a statement of whether the hours were incurred by an
attorney, a paralegal, or other employee; and the hourly rate
applied.” Doc. #27. On October 1, 2021, plaintiff filed a motion
for attorney’s fees seeking payment of fees in the amount of
$6,001.90 pursuant to the EAJA (28 U.S.C. §2412(d)) and the
Stipulation. See generally Doc. #28. (hereinafter the “Motion
for Fees”). Plaintiff states that although counsel has incurred
$6,251.90 in fees in connection with the appeal, “the parties
have stipulated to a lesser amount, as reflected in the filed
stipulation $6,001.90.” Id. at 1 (sic). Attached to plaintiff’s
Motion for Fees is an “Affidavit Re: Time” (hereinafter the
“Affidavit”), which itemizes the time expended by plaintiff’s
counsel in this matter. See Doc. #28-2.
Although the parties have reached an agreement as to the
appropriate award of fees in this matter, the Court is obligated
to review the Affidavit and determine whether the proposed 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 the itemization of hours expended by
plaintiff’s counsel to determine whether the agreed upon fee
amount is reasonable.
For the reasons set forth herein, the Court APPROVES and SO
ORDERS the Stipulation [Doc. #26], and GRANTS the Motion for
Fees [Doc. #28], for the stipulated amount of $6,001.90.
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 challenge
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. §2412(d)(1)(B).
Plaintiff’s attorney claims fees for 29.25 hours of work at
a rate of $213.74 per hour. See Doc. #28-2 at 2. The parties
have reached an agreement under which defendant would pay
$6,001.90 in fees, which represents approximately 28.1 hours of
attorney time. See id. 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”). 2 This Court has a duty 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 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,
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 ordering 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. 3 See 28 U.S.C. §2412(d)(1)(B). The
Court next turns to the reasonableness of the fees sought.
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.
Plaintiff’s motion is timely because 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
In this case, plaintiff’s counsel seeks payment for 28.1
hours of work, reduced from the 29.25 actually expended. See
generally Docs. #28, #28-2. The administrative transcript in
this case was comprised of 703 pages and plaintiff’s counsel
submitted a thorough and well-reasoned brief. See generally
Docs. #13, #18-1. The Court finds the attorney time reasonable
for the work claimed, including: review of the administrative
transcript [Doc. #13]; preparation of the motion to reverse and
supporting memorandum [Docs. #18, #18-1]; and preparation of the
statement of material facts [Doc. #18-2]. 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.” (quotation marks and multiple citations omitted));
see also Lechner v. Barnhart, 330 F. Supp. 2d 1005, 1012 (E.D.
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). In this case, the 30-day EAJA clock would begin to run
on October 31, 2021, 60 days after judgment for plaintiff
entered. Plaintiff filed the Motion for Attorney’s Fees on
October 1, 2021, well before the expiration of the filing
deadline. See Doc. #28.
Wis. 2004); cf. Barbour v. Colvin, 993 F. Supp. 2d 284, 291
“Courts 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); Cobb v. Astrue, No. 3:08CV01130(MRK)(WIG), 2009
WL 2940205, at *3 (D. Conn. Sept. 2, 2009). Accordingly, the
Court finds that the claimed time is reasonable, particularly in
light of the Stipulation, which adds weight to the claim that
the fee award claimed is reasonable.
Therefore, an award of $6,001.90 in fees is appropriate.
The Court APPROVES and SO ORDERS the Stipulation [Doc. #26], and
GRANTS the Motion for Fees [Doc. #28], for the stipulated amount
SO ORDERED at New Haven, Connecticut this 6th day of
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?