West v. Astrue
ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART 61 Plaintiff's Motion for Attorney Fees under the EAJA. The Court awards a fee of $10,000.00 in this case. The Commissioner is ordered to pay this amount in full satisfaction of any claim for fees, costs, or other expenses pursuant to the EAJA. Signed by US District Judge Terrence W. Boyle on 11/4/2014. (Fisher, M.)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF NORTH CAROLINA
DOUGLAS CARTER WEST,
Acting Commissioner of Social Security,
This matter is before the Court on plaintiffs motion for attorney's fees pursuant to 28
U.S.C. §2412(d), the Equal Access to Justice Act ("EAJA") [DE 61]. For the reasons discussed
below, plaintiffs motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.
Following a remand by this Court, plaintiff received a fully favorable decision from the
Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") in this case on February 18, 2014. [DE 56-2]. This Court
issued its final order adopting this decision on May 19, 2014. [DE 57]. Plaintiff has now filed an
EAJA fees application and requests $18,636.79 in fees and an additional $2,411.04 in costs and
expenses. [DE 61-2]. Defendant does not dispute that plaintiff was the prevailing party, that
defendant's position in the underlying litigation was unjustified, or that plaintiff is procedurally
eligible for EAJA fees. However, it is defendant's position that the number of hours requested by
plaintiff is excessive and warrants reduction. [DE 67 at 1].
The EAJA provides that parties who prevail in litigation against the United States are
entitled to payment for reasonable attorney's fees unless the United States was substantially
justified in its litigation position. 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(A). In order to establish eligibility for
an award under the act, the claimant must show that he is (i) the prevailing party; (ii) that the
government's position was not substantially justified; (iii) that no special circumstances make an
award unjust; and (iv) that the fee application was submitted to the Court within thirty days of
final judgment and was supported by an itemized statement. See Crawford v. Sullivan, 935 F.2d
655, 656 (4th Cir. 1991). Because defendant does not dispute that plaintiffhas met the threshold
conditions for an award of fees and costs under the EAJA, the Court finds that plaintiff has met
"Once the district court determines that plaintiffs have met the threshold conditions for an
award of fees and costs under the EAJA, the district court must undertake the 'task of
determining what fee is reasonable."' Harlan v. Colvin, 2014 WL 1632931, *2 (W.D.N.C. April
23, 2014) (citing Hyatt v. Barnhard, 315 F.3d 239, 253 (4th Cir. 2002)). As a prevailing party,
plaintiff "bears the burden of establishing that the number of hours for which she seeks
reimbursement is reasonable and does not include any claim for hours which are excessive,
redundant, or otherwise unnecessary." Dixon v. Astrue, 2008 WL 360989, *3 (E.D.N.C. Feb. 8,
2008). "The district court has substantial discretion in fixing the amount of an EAJA award ...
but is charged with the duty to ensure that the final award is reasonable." !d. (citing Hyatt v. N C.
Dept. of Human Res., 315 F.3d 239, 254 (4th Cir. 2002); Comm 'r v. Jean, 496 U.S. 154, 163
(1990) (internal quotations omitted)).
The court finds that plaintiffs EAJA fee request of over $21,000 is excessive. While
plaintiffs counsel eventually won a fully favorable decision for plaintiff, an award for 103.7
attorney hours expended on the case is simply too much for an EAJA award. The Court finds that
such an award would exceed the typical range of compensated hours in this field and finds that
the novelty and complexity of this case is not enough to justify such an award. See Miles v.
Colvin, 2014 WL 1309293, *1 (E.D.N.C. July 24, 2014); Dixon, 2008 WL 360989, *4; Bunn v.
Bowen, 637 F. Supp. 464,469 (E.D.N.C. 1986). Further, the Court notes that much of the time
spent pursuing the fully favorable decision was misdirected and did not contribute to the final
successful outcome for plaintiff. The Court finds that an EAJA award of $10,000 is a reasonable
amount for this case and awards a $10,000 fee as such.
For the foregoing reasons, the plaintiffs motion for attorney's fees under the EAJA is
GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. The Court AWARDS fee of$10,000 in this case.
It is ORDERED that the Commissioner of Social Security pay $10,000 in attorney's fees and
costs in full satisfaction of any claim for fees, costs, and other expenses pursuant to the EAJA.
This~ day ofNovember, 2014.
UNITED STATES DISTRIC 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?