Watson v. Commissioner of Social Security Administration

Filing 22

ORDER granting 19 Motion for Attorney Fees. Signed by Honorable Bruce Howe Hendricks on 11/6/2017.(abuc)

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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF SOUTH CAROLINA ANDERSON/GREENWOOD DIVISION Shelia Watson, ) ) Plaintiff, ) ) v. ) ) Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting ) Commissioner of Social Security, ) ) Defendant. ) ________________________________) Civil Action No. 8:17-cv-79-BHH ORDER This matter is before the Court upon Plaintiff’s motion for attorney’s fees pursuant to the Equal Access to Justice Act (“EAJA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2412. In his motion, Plaintiff seeks attorney’s fees in the amount of $2,156.25, representing 3.5 attorney hours at the hourly rate of $187.50 and 16 paralegal hours at the hourly rate of $93.75, plus $22.25 in expenses and $400 in costs. On November 2, 2017, Defendant filed a response to Plaintiff’s motion, notifying the Court that Defendant does not object to Plaintiff’s request. Attorney’s fees may be awarded pursuant to EAJA where the government’s position is not substantially justified. The substantial justification test is one of reasonableness in law and fact. See Pierce v. Underwood, 487 U.S. 552, 565 (1988). The district court has broad discretion to set the attorney fee amount. “[A] district court will always retain substantial discretion in fixing the amount of an EAJA award. Exorbitant, unfounded, or procedurally defective fee applications . . . are matters that the district court can recognize.” 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)). Moreover, 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, § 2(c)(2)(B). After consideration, it is hereby ORDERED that Plaintiff’s motion (ECF No. 19) is granted, and Plaintiff is awarded attorney’s fees in the amount of $2,156.25, plus $22.25 in expenses and $400 in costs, pursuant to EAJA. 1 IT IS SO ORDERED. s/Bruce H. Hendricks The Honorable Bruce Howe Hendricks United States District Judge November 6, 2017 Charleston, South Carolina 1 As the Supreme Court made clear in Astrue v. Ratliff, attorney’s fees under EAJA are made payable to the prevailing litigant and not to the litigant’s attorney. 560 U.S. 586, 598 (2010) (holding that the plain text of EAJA requires that attorney’s fees be awarded to the litigant, thus subjecting EAJA fees to an offset of any pre-existing federal debts). 2

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