Skamra v. Commissioner, Social Security Administration
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER ON MOTION FOR ATTORNEY FEES PURSUANT TO THE EQUAL ACCESS TO JUSTICE ACT. Signed by Magistrate Judge Roy S. Payne on 12/21/2015. (ch, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS
MARY LYNN SKAMRA
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION
CIVIL ACTION NO. 2:13cv648
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER ON
PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR
ATTORNEY’S FEES PURSUANT TO THE
EQUAL ACCESS TO JUSTICE ACT
On August 20, 2013, Plaintiff initiated this lawsuit by filing a complaint seeking judicial
review of the Commissioner’s decision denying her application for Social Security benefits. Having
ultimately prevailed in the District Court, Plaintiff now seeks Attorney Fees under the Equal Access
to Justice Act.
On September 14, 2015, this court issued a Report and Recommendation recommending
that the District Court reverse and remand the final decision of the Commissioner pursuant to
sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) of the Social Security Act. On September 30, 2015, the District
Court adopted the Report and Recommendation and entered a Final Judgment reversing and
remanding the final decision of the Commissioner pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)
of the Social Security Act.
Plaintiff now appears before the Court with her Unopposed Motion for Attorney Fees
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2412, the Equal Access to Justice Act (“EAJA”)(docket entry # 26). Based
on the supporting arguments and the Court’s sentence four remand, Plaintiff asserts that she is the
prevailing party for purposes of the EAJA and seeks a total of $ 3,748.53 for 18.6 hours of attorney
work, 2.6 hours of paralegal work, and expenses. The Commissioner has filed a response (docket
entry #27). The Commissioner does not oppose Plaintiff’s request for fees, and states that the
amount sought is reasonable. See Commissioner’s Response at 2.
The “dual purpose” of the EAJA is “to ensure adequate representation for those who need
it and to minimize the cost of this representation to taxpayers” Baker v. Bowen, 839 F.2d 1075, 1083
(5th Cir.), reh’g denied, 848 F.2d 66 (5th Cir. 1988). Eligibility for a fee award under the EAJA
requires, at a minimum, that the claimant be a prevailing party; that the Government’s position was
not substantially justified; that no special circumstances make an award unjust; and that any fee
application be submitted to the court within 30 days of final judgment and be supported by an
itemized statement. Comm’r INS v. Jean, 496 U.S. 154, 158 (1990); Murkeldove v. Astrue, 635 F.3d
784, 790 (5th Cir. 2011) (also noting the requirement that the claimant must “incur” attorney’s fees);
28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(A), (B). A “final judgment” is a judgment that is final and not appealable.
28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(2)(G). With regard to the amount of fees, 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(2)(A) states:
(A) “fees and other expenses” includes the reasonable expenses of expert witnesses,
the reasonable cost of any study, analysis, engineering report, test, or project which
is found by the court to be necessary for the preparation of the party’s case, and
reasonable attorney fees (The amount of fees awarded under this subsection shall be
based upon prevailing market rates for the kind and quality of the services furnished,
except that (I) no expert witness shall be compensated at a rate in excess of the
highest rate of compensation for expert witnesses paid by the United States; and (ii)
attorney fees shall not be awarded in excess of $125 per hour unless the court
determines that an increase in the cost of living or a special factor, such as the limited
availability of qualified attorneys for the proceedings involved, justifies a higher
A remand accomplished pursuant to the fourth sentence of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) renders the
claimant a prevailing party regardless of whether the claimant is successful in obtaining benefits on
remand. Shalala v. Schaefer, 509 U.S. 292, 300-01 (1993). The Commissioner has the burden of
proving that the position of the United States in this matter was “substantially justified” and has not
done so here. Herron v. Bowen, 788 F.2d 1127, 1130 (5th Cir. 1986) (per curiam); see also
Davidson v. Veneman, 317 F.3d 503, 506 (5th Cir. 2003). In addition, the Commissioner has not
shown or suggested special circumstances that would render an award unjust. Further, Plaintiff’s
motion was timely filed after the judgment became final. The motion was filed with an itemized
account. It is undisputed that Plaintiff actually incurred these fees by virtue of his agreement with
his attorney. See Murkeldove, 635 F.3d at 791.
The hourly attorney fee sought by Plaintiff exceeds $125.00 per hour, requiring a finding that
an increase in the cost of living or a special factor, such as the limited availability of qualified
attorneys for the proceedings involved, justifies a higher fee. 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(2)(A). Plaintiff
has presented an adequate basis for seeking an hourly rate in excess of $125.00; further, the rate
is consistent with recent hourly rates awarded for attorney fees in similar cases predicated increases
in the cost of living as reflected by the Consumer Price Index. The Court finds the requested rate
Attorney’s fees under the EAJA are properly payable to the party-litigant, not directly to the
attorney. See Astrue v. Ratliff, 560 U.S. 586 (2010); see also Murkeldove, 635 F.3d at 788 n.2.
In part, that is so to make fee payments subject to a Government offset to satisfy any pre-existing
debt that the litigant may owe the United States. Ratliff, 130 S. Ct. at 2524. Therefore, Plaintiff, not
her attorney, should be paid the aggregate sum of $ 3,748.53 in fees and expenses in connection
with this case. Plaintiff’s payment of fees owed her attorney is a matter of the retainer agreement
between them. The payment will be made via her attorney at her attorney’s office.
After due consideration, in light of the foregoing, it is hereby
ORDERED that Plaintiff’s Unopposed Motion for Award of Attorney Fees pursuant to the
Equal Access to Justice Act (docket entry # 26) is GRANTED. The Commissioner is hereby
ORDERED to pay Plaintiff, via her attorney of record, for fees and expenses incurred totaling
$3,748.53 pursuant to 3rd EAJA, 28 U.S.C. 2012.
SIGNED this the day of January, § 2412(d).
SIGNED this 21st day of December, 2015.
ROY S. PAYNE
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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