STAGGS v ASTRUE
ENTRY ON MOTION FOR ATTORNEY'S FEE: Accordingly, the Plaintiff's motion is GRANTED IN PART and Plaintiff's counsel is awarded $6,191.96 in fees ***SEE ENTRY FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION***. Signed by Judge William T. Lawrence on 7/8/2011. (DWH)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
STACY A. STAGGS,
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE Commissioner of the )
Social Security Administration,
Cause No. 1:09-cv-1519-WTL-TAB
ENTRY ON MOTION FOR ATTORNEY’S FEE
Before the Court is the Plaintiff’s Motion for Attorney’s Fees under the Equal Access to
Justice Act (“EAJA”) (Docket No. 28). This motion is fully briefed, and the Court, being duly
advised, now GRANTS IN PART the Plaintiff’s motion for the reasons, and to the extent, set
In her initial brief, the Plaintiff requests an attorney’s fee of $6,943.58, as she was the
prevailing party in the underlying Social Security disability case. Having obtained reversal and
remand of the agency decision in this Court, the Plaintiff is indeed a prevailing party. See
Shalala v. Schaefer, 509 U.S. 292 (1993). Moreover, the Plaintiff asserts that the Government’s
position was not substantially justified.
In response, the Government concedes that the Plaintiff is entitled to an attorney’s fee
under the EAJA. However, the Government takes issue with the amount of the fee and argues
that any attorney’s fee should be paid directly to the Plaintiff, not to her attorney.
Turning first to the amount of the fee, it appears that the parties have reached a consensus
regarding the appropriate amount of the fee. Although the Plaintiff originally requested
$6,943.58, the Government contended that this amount was excessive and suggested that
$6,191.96 would be more appropriate.1 In her reply brief, the Plaintiff agreed “to accept the total
fee suggested by the [Government] of $6,191.96.” Docket No. 32 at 1. Having reviewed the
document and affidavit filed by the Plaintiff, the Court believes this is a reasonable fee and
awards the agreed-upon $6,191.96 attorney’s fee.
The Government next argues that the attorney’s fee should be paid to the Plaintiff, not
directly to her attorney. In support of this argument, the Government cites Astrue v. Ratliff, 130
S.Ct. 2521, 2524 (2010), which held: “[A] 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.” However, the Supreme Court went on to note that the Government had, in some
cases, paid EAJA fees directly to attorneys. This most often occurred “in cases in which the
prevailing party had assigned its rights in the fees award to the attorney.” Id. at 2529. “[T]he
Government has since continued the direct payment practice only in cases where ‘the plaintiff
does not owe a debt to the government and assigns the right to receive the fees to the attorney.’”
Id. (citation omitted).
The Government’s argument that Ratliff somehow precludes payment of EAJA fees
directly to attorneys in all cases stretches that decision too far. Indeed, post-Ratliff, numerous
district courts in the Seventh Circuit have rejected the argument propounded by the Government
and have concluded that “Ratliff does not establish a policy against assignments [of attorney’s
fees].” Holofchak v. Astrue, No. 09-C-5204, 2011 WL 662735 at *1 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 14, 2011);
This amount represents a decrease in the Plaintiff’s requested hourly rate from $178.59
per hour to $171.38 per hour, as well as a 2.75 hour decrease in the total number of hours billed.
see also Byers v. Astrue, No. 1:09-cv-01597-TAB-JMS, 2011 WL 2472992 at *2 (S.D. Ind. Jun.
22, 2011); Booker v. Astrue, No. 4:08-cv-097-SEB-WGH, 2010 WL 2771875 at *3 (S.D. Ind.
July 13, 2010). While these decisions are, of course, not binding on this Court, given the
language in Ratliff, the Court believes that they are well-reasoned and instructive.
In this case, the Plaintiff provided the Court a copy of a document assigning her attorney
the right to receive the fees in question. See Docket No. 30. The Government has not
challenged its validity. Moreover, the Government has not asserted that the Plaintiff owes any
pre-existing debt to the Government. Accordingly, the Plaintiff’s motion is GRANTED IN
PART and Plaintiff’s counsel is awarded $6,191.96 in fees.
SO ORDERED: 07/08/2011
Hon. William T. Lawrence, Judge
United States District Court
Southern District of Indiana
Thomas E. Kieper
United States Attorney’s Office
Patrick Harold Mulvany
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