GARLAND v. ASTRUE et al
ORDER GRANTING 20 Motion for Attorney Fees. It is ORDERED that the Plaintiff receive attorneys fees in the amount of $9,491.76. Ordered by U.S. District Judge MARC THOMAS TREADWELL on 4/22/2014. (tlh)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF GEORGIA
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting
Commissioner of Social Security,
CIVIL ACTION NO. 5:12-CV-509 (MTT)
Before the Court is the Plaintiff’s motion for attorneys’ fees pursuant to the Equal
Access to Justice Act (“EAJA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d) following the remand of her claim
for social security benefits. (Doc. 20). The EAJA provides that a prevailing plaintiff may
recover attorneys’ fees incurred in a suit against the United States 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). A claimant who obtains a court order remanding
her Social Security claim to the Commissioner for further proceedings is a prevailing
party for purposes of the Equal Access to Justice Act. Shalala v. Schaefer, 509 U.S.
292, 300-01 (1993). The Plaintiff initially sought $9,979.36 for 53.45 hours worked.1
(Doc. 20-1 at 2-3).
The Commissioner does not dispute that the Plaintiff is entitled to attorneys’
fees; however, the Commissioner contends the number of hours claimed is excessive
because the issues involved in this case are not novel and the Plaintiff’s counsel is
The Plaintiff now seeks a total of $10,166.46 to account for the one hour spent preparing the reply brief
to the Commissioner’s objection. (Doc. 22 at 2-3).
experienced in social security disability litigation. (Doc. 21). Specifically, the
Commissioner objects to the claim of 39.95 hours from April 1, 2013 to May 28, 2013 to
prepare the Plaintiff’s brief. The Commissioner also takes issue with the Plaintiff’s claim
for hours spent working on the reply brief, which “consisted of restatements of the
Commissioner’s arguments followed by restatement of arguments already made in
Plaintiff’s initial brief.” (Doc. 21 at 4). The time sheet submitted with the Plaintiff’s
motion shows that 5.20 hours were spent drafting and revising the reply brief. (Doc.
20-3 at 4-5). The Plaintiff argues that the Commissioner did not sufficiently specify
which hours are “excessive” and that the number of hours spent was reasonable in light
of the poor organization of the administrative record.
The EAJA allows for the award of “reasonable attorney fees.” 28 U.S.C. §
2412(d)(2)(A). Reasonable hours are “billable hours—that is, work that would be paid
for by a reasonable client of means seriously intent on vindicating the rights in issue.”
Perkins v. Mobile Hous. Bd., 847 F.2d 735, 738 (11th Cir. 1988) (discussing fee award
under 42 U.S.C. § 1988). “‘[E]xcessive, redundant or otherwise unnecessary’ hours”
are excluded from the amount of fees claimed. Norman v. Hous. Auth. of City of
Montgomery, 836 F.2d 1292, 1301 (11th Cir. 1988) (quoting Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461
U.S. 424, 434 (1983)) (explaining reasonableness of hours expended in context of civil
rights case). “[E]xclusions for excessive or unnecessary work on given tasks must be
left to the discretion of the district court.” Id.
The Court finds the 39.95 hours claimed to prepare the Plaintiff’s brief
reasonable in this case, particularly given the lack of specificity of the Commissioner’s
objection. Though the Plaintiff’s attorney is experienced in social security disability
litigation, this case involved two different administrative decisions and a record that the
Commissioner supplemented with additional evidence not included with the initial
administrative transcript filed. However, the Court finds 5.20 hours to prepare a reply
brief containing only four pages of actual argument excessive. (Doc. 15). The Court
understands the record is lengthy; however, counsel had already combed through it
when drafting the initial brief and the reply brief mostly restates the previous arguments.
Thus, the Court concludes that 2.60 of the 5.20 hours claimed are reasonable.2
Because counsel is already receiving fees claimed for 50.85 hours of work, the Court
does not think it reasonable to award an additional $187.10 for the brief reply to the
For the foregoing reasons, the Plaintiff’s motion for attorneys’ fees (Doc. 20) is
GRANTED. It is ORDERED that the Plaintiff receive attorneys’ fees in the amount of
SO ORDERED, this 22nd day of April, 2014.
S/ Marc T. Treadwell
MARC T. TREADWELL, JUDGE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
Counsel represents that $187.54 is the hourly rate for fees claimed during July 2013 when the reply brief
was drafted. (Docs. 20-1 at 3; 20-3 at 4-5). Thus, $487.60—half the amount claimed for the reply brief—
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?