Davis v. Commissioner of Social Security
ORDER granting 23 Motion for Attorney Fees. Signed by Magistrate Judge CJ Williams on 1/20/2017. (pac)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF IOWA
FREDERICK A. DAVIS,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL
SECURITY, Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting
This matter is before the Court pursuant to plaintiff’s “Amended Application for
Fees Pursuant to EAJA” (Doc. 23), requesting attorney fees in the amount of $4,006.10.
Plaintiff attaches to the application a brief and exhibits. (Doc. 23-1).
In response, defendant filed “Defendant’s Response To Plaintiff’s Motion For EAJA
Fees (Doc. 24), stating defendant has no objection to plaintiff’s request for attorney fees
under the EAJA in the amount of $4,006.10.
Further, Defendant states that:
In accordance with Astrue v. Ratliff, 560 U.S. 586 (2010), the
EAJA fee is payable to plaintiff as the litigant and may be
subject to offset to satisfy a pre-existing debt that the litigant
owes to the United States.
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 Frederick A. Davis, 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 because the case was remanded
for further proceedings. (Doc. 19). 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.23-1).
Neither the Commissioner nor this Court consider the amount agreed upon by the parties
to be unreasonable under the circumstances. And, finally, this Court is unaware of any
special circumstances which would render the award unjust.
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 Attorney Kruse regarding the charged rate in this case (Doc. 23-1).
Therefore, attorney fees under EAJA are granted in the agreed upon amount
of $4,006.10 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 20th day of January, 2017.
Chief United States Magistrate Judge
Northern District of Iowa
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