Payne v. Commissioner of Social Security Administration
ORDER granting 26 MOTION for Attorney Fees under EAJA, awarding $4,136.56 in attorney's fees and $16.00 for expenses. Signed by Honorable Timothy M. Cain on 10/18/2017.(bshr, )
IN THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
FOR THE DISTRICT OF SOUTH CAROLINA
DAWN PETTIT PAYNE,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL,
Of Social Security,
C/A No. 1:16-CV-3222-TMC
On October 3, 2017, Plaintiff Dawn Pettit Payne filed a motion for attorney’s fees
pursuant to the Equal Access to Justice Act (“EAJA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2412, on the basis that she
was the prevailing party and that the position taken by the Commissioner, in this action was not
substantially justified. (ECF No. 26). On October 17, 2017, the Commissioner responded stating
that she does not object to an award of attorney’s fees of $4,136.56, and payment of expenses in
the amount of $16.00 pursuant to the EAJA. (ECF No. 27).
Under the EAJA, a court shall award attorney’s fees to a prevailing party1 in certain civil
actions against the United States unless it finds that the government’s position was substantially
justified or that special circumstances make an award unjust. 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(A). The
district courts have discretion to determine a reasonable fee award and whether that award should
be made in excess of the statutory cap. Pierce v. Underwood, 487 U.S. 552 (1988); May v.
Sullivan, 936 F.2d 176, 177 (4th Cir. 1991). The district courts also have broad discretion to set
the attorney fee amount. In determining the fee award, “[e]xorbitant, unfounded, or procedurally
A party who wins a remand pursuant to sentence four of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §
405(g), is a prevailing party for EAJA purposes. See Shalala v. Schaefer, 509 U.S. 292, 300–302
(1993). The remand in this case was made pursuant to sentence four.
defective fee applications . . . are matters that the district court can recognize and discount.”
Hyatt v. North Carolina Dep’t of Human Res., 315 F.3d 239, 254 (4th Cir. 2002) (citing Comm’r
v. Jean, 496 U.S. 154, 163 (1990)). Additionally, the court should not only consider the “position
taken by the United States in the civil action,” but also the “action or failure to act by the agency
upon which the civil action is based.” 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(2)(D), as amended by P.L. 99-80, §
The Plaintiff has asked for the payment of attorney’s fees in the amount of $4,136.56, and
$16.00 for expenses. (ECF No. 17). The Commissioner does not object to the payment or amount
of these fees and expenses. (ECF No. 18). Despite there being no objection, the court is obligated
under the EAJA to determine if the fee is proper. See Design & Prod., Inc. v. United States, 21
Cl. Ct. 145, 152 (1990) (holding that under the EAJA, “it is the court’s responsibility to
independently assess the appropriateness and measure of attorney’s fees to be awarded in a
particular case, whether or not an amount is offered as representing the agreement of the parties
in the form of a proposed stipulation.”). Applying the above standard to the facts of this case, the
court concludes that the Commissioner’s position was not substantially justified. Furthermore,
after a thorough review of the record, the court finds that the stipulated fee request is appropriate.
Accordingly, the court GRANTS the Motion for Attorney’s Fees (ECF No. 26) and orders that
the Plaintiff be awarded the $4,136.56 in attorney’s fees and $16.00 for expenses, for a total
award of $4,152.56.2
IT IS SO ORDERED.
/s/ Timothy M. Cain
The court notes that the fees must be paid to Plaintiff. See Astrue v. Ratliff, 560 U.S. 586 (2010)
(holding that the plain text of the EAJA requires that attorney’s fees be awarded to the litigant,
thus subjecting the EAJA fees to offset of any pre-existing federal debts); see also Stephens v.
Astrue, 565 F.3d 131, 139 (4th Cir. 2009) (holding the same).
United States District Judge
October 18, 2017
Anderson, South Carolina
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