Dreesman v. Commissioner of Social Security
ORDER granting 25 Motion for Attorney Fees. Signed by Magistrate Judge CJ Williams on 2/10/2017. (pac)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF IOWA
CEDAR RAPIDS DIVISION
CYNTHIA A. DREESMAN,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL
SECURITY, Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting
This matter is before the Court pursuant to plaintiff’s “Unopposed Petition for
Attorney Fees Under the Equal Access to Justice Act,” (Doc. 25), requesting attorney fees
in the amount of $7,220.00. Plaintiff attaches exhibits to her Petition. (Doc. 25-1).
The defendant did not file a response.
Although the Court is aware that the Government and the SSA have a practice of
paying some EAJA fee awards directly to attorneys in Social Security cases, the Court is
persuaded that the attorney fee award shall be made payable to plaintiff as the “prevailing
party.” The statute setting forth the standard for “prevailing party” fees “makes clear that
the “prevailing party” (not her attorney) is the recipient of the fees award by requiring the
prevailing party to demonstrate that her net worth falls within the range the statute request
for fees awards.” Ratliff, 560 U.S. at 594.
28 U.S.C. § 2412(d), provides:
A court shall award to a prevailing party . . . fees and other
expenses . . . in any civil action . . . brought by or against the
United States . . . unless the court finds that the position of
the United States was substantially justified.
As mentioned, “[an EAJA] 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.” Ratliff, 560 U.S. 586 (2010).
While the Court is aware in some cases a fee agreement between the plaintiff and
his/her lawyer may exist, where plaintiff has assigned his/her fee award to his/her
attorney, the court is bound to enforce the statutes passed by Congress. The fee agreement
is between plaintiff and his/her attorney, and the Court will not disturb or enforce the
provisions of the agreement when awarding EAJA fees based upon the provisions of a
statute. However, the check made payable to Cynthia Dreesman, the plaintiff, may be
delivered to plaintiff’s attorney. This court has previously found that such a request is
appropriate if it is consistent with the Commissioner’s and the Department of Treasury’s
practices. Kunik v. Colvin, No. C13-3025-LTS, 2014 WL 1883804, at *3 (N.D. Iowa
May 12, 2014); Tracy v. Colvin, No. C11-3072-MWB, 2013 WL 1213125, at *2 (N.D.
Iowa Mar. 25, 2013).
28 U.S.C. § 2412(d) of the EAJA provides for the award of fees and expenses if:
(1) the party requesting the fees prevailed; (2) the position of the United States was not
“substantially justified;” (3) the fees were incurred by the moving party in a “civil action
. . . including proceedings for judicial review of agency action;” (4) the action was
brought by or against the United States; (5) the court entering the ruling had “jurisdiction
of that action;” (6) the party seeking fees submitted an application 30 days after final
judgment, specifying the “amount sought, including an itemized statement . . . stating the
actual time expended and the rate at which fees and other expenses were computed;” (7)
the amount sought is reasonable under the circumstances; and (8) there are no “special
circumstances” making “an award unjust.” (citation omitted).
In this case, Plaintiff has satisfied each necessary element. Plaintiff prevailed in a
civil action against the Commissioner of Social Security (Doc. 24). This Court properly
exercised jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3). The Commissioner
was not substantially justified in that the overwhelming weight of the evidence supported
the conclusion that the Commissioner’s decision should be remanded for further
consideration. Plaintiff’s request for attorney’s fees included an itemized statement of the
actual time expended (Doc.25-1). Neither the Commissioner nor this Court consider the
amount agreed upon by the parties to be unreasonable under the circumstances.1 And,
finally, this Court is unaware of any special circumstances which would render the award
28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(2)(A) provides that “attorney fees shall not be awarded in excess
of $125 per hour unless the court determines that an increase in the cost of living . . . justifies a
higher fee.” (citation omitted). In this case, the Court has reviewed the Itemization of Fees
provided by Attorneys Osterhout and Engler regarding the charged rate in this case (Doc. 25-1).
Therefore, attorney fees under EAJA are granted in the agreed upon amount
of $7,220.00 payable to the plaintiff, by the Social Security Administration, and
mailed to plaintiff’s attorney’s address after any offset.
IT IS SO ORDERED this 10th day of February, 2017.
Chief United States Magistrate Judge
Northern District of Iowa
As previously stated, the fee amount is payable to litigant and subject to offset as set out
in Astrue v. Ratliff, 560 U.S. 586 (2010).
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