Jenkins v. Astrue
ORDER GRANTING 31 Plaintiff's Motion for Attorney Fees pursuant to the EAJA. Plaintiff's counsel is awarded fees in the amount of $9,125.00. Signed by US District Judge Terrence W. Boyle on 6/6/2014. (Fisher, M.)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF NORTH CAROLINA
ETHEL MARIE JENKINS,
Acting Commissioner of Social Security,
Plaintiffs counsel has moved for attorney's fees and costs pursuant to the Equal Access
to Justice Act (EAJA), 28 U.S.C. § 2412. [DE 31]. For the reasons stated herein, counsel's
motion is GRANTED.
The Equal Access to Justice Act 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 litigatory position. 28 U.S.C. §
2412(d)(l)(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 ).
Here, the Acting Commissioner does not dispute that plaintiff was the prevailing
part or contend that special circumstances exist or that the fee request was untimely, but
does contend that the Commissioner's position in the underlying litigation was
substantially justified. Review of the record and the arguments presented in this matter
reveals this not to be the case.
As noted in its decision in this matter, plaintiff's
application had been remanded by the Appeals Council twice before the final unfavorable
decision was issued and review was sought in this Court. Three experts found plaintiff to
be mildly mentally retarded or cognitively impaired, and the record clearly demonstrated
that plaintiff had the requisite deficits in adaptive functioning to meet the criteria for
Listing 12.05(c). For these reasons, this Court exercised its authority to reverse and
award benefits rather than send plaintiff back for a fourth hearing before an ALJ. The
Court thus finds that the government's position in this matter was not substantially
justified and that an award of fees under EAJA is appropriate.
Plaintiff has requested EAJA fees and costs in the amount of $9,125 for fortyeight hours and forty minutes of work, which the Acting Commissioner contends is
unreasonable and excessive. "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."' Hyatt v. Barnhart, 315
F.3d 239, 253 (4th Cir. 2002) (citation omitted). "Ideally, the litigants will settle the
amount of a fee," but "[w]here settlement is not possible, the fee applicant bears the
burden of establishing entitlement to an award and documenting the appropriate hours
expended." !d. (internal quotation omitted). A court has great discretion to determine the
fee award so long as the fee is reasonable. !d. at 254. In determining the amount of the
fee, a court may consider: ( 1) "[t ]he extent of a plaintiff's success," I d.; (2) the novelty
and complexity of the issues presented, Bunn v. Bowen, 637 F.Supp. 464, 469 (E.D.N.C.
1986); (3) the experience and skill of the attorney, Jd.; and (4) the typical range of
compensated hours in a particular field. Dixon v. Astrue, No. 5:06-CV-77-JG, 2008 WL
360989 *4 (E.D.N.C. Feb. 8, 2008).
Here, plaintiff was successful in that the Court reversed and awarded benefits, and
plaintiff's counsel has demonstrated that he is an experienced attorney in the social
security field. The Court has further reviewed the amount of time expended and the rates
at which counsel has billed and finds them to be at bottom reasonable and that the amount
ofthe award will not result in a windfall to counsel. Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424,
430 n.4 (1983); see also Quade ex ref. Quade v. Barnhart, 570 F. Supp.2d 1164, 11671168 (D. Ariz. 2008) (noting that the "Court will not micromanage an attorney's
approach to a case"); Attia v. Astrue, No. 1:06-cv-00778-SMS, 2008 WL 2620376 *3
(E.D.Ca. July 3, 2008) (fifty-one hours reasonable where brief was lengthy,
administrative record was lengthy, and counsel was experienced).
For these reasons, plaintiff's motion for attorney's fees under EAJA is
GRANTED and plaintiff's counsel is awarded fees in the amount of $9,125.
_k day of June, 2014.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT 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?