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BOWMAN v. SECRETARY OF H.H.S.

March 29, 1989

Johnny W. BOWMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
SECRETARY OF H.H.S., Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: EISELE

 GARNETT THOMAS EISELE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

 The Court of Appeals has remanded this matter for an explanation of this Court's decision to award this successful social security plaintiff only 28.25 of the requested 47.50 hours of attorney's fees, a reduction of 19.25 hours. This Court is also directed to revise its earlier Order to expressly and separately state the amounts awarded under the SSA and the EAJA.

 As an overview, the Court essentially reduced the requested fee by 40%. The Court's review of counsel's time sheets persuaded the Court that counsel's times and charges for actual work on the case, i.e., research, drafting, conferences, etc., were reasonable, but that the bills were inflated with a large number of mechanically applied charges which could not be reasonably justified. It was the Court's conclusion that a 40% reduction would accurately reflect the amount of excessive charges and that, for reasons explained in detail below, it would not be useful to make an item by item evaluation.

 Following is a discussion of each charge which the Court felt was not wholly justified. It is worth noting that.25 hours at the $ 75 per hour rate is $ 18.75. In reviewing the large number of quarter hour items on the bill, the Court has considered whether it is reasonable to pay nearly $ 20 for the action described.

 1. 11/12/80 -- 2.50 hours for preparing a judicial complaint. The Order appealed from was not handed down until July 14, 1980, over 8 months later.

 2. 7/18/81 -- 1.00 hours for a letter enclosing a copy of Notice of Dismissal and requesting an additional report. The Court does not believe that it should take an hour to prepare simple letter covering an order and requesting a copy of a report.

 3. 12/16/81 --.25 hours for reviewing a file stamped copy of plaintiff's complaint. Plaintiff, of course, filed the complaint. The only purpose of reviewing what the clerk returned would be to be sure that it was file stamped. This would not take a quarter of an hour. In fact, it scarcely requires lawyer time at all.

 4. 1/12/82 --.75 hours for three letters covering summonses and stating service of process. This is an entirely mechanical procedure. It is doubtful that having all three letters prepared and signed would take.25 hours of attorney time. Certainly it should not have taken three quarters of an hour.

 5. 3/17/82 -- 1.00 hour for receipt and review of file marked copy of order signed by Judge Ginger. The Court has reviewed both the entire administrative transcript and the Court file and has not found any order signed by Judge Ginger. There is a motion for extension of time dated March 16, 1982, and an order granting the extension signed by Judge Henry J. Jones, Jr. The Order reads in its entirely "On motion of the defendant, his time for filing an answer to plaintiff's complaint herein is extended to and including May 14, 1982" (excluding caption and signature). Counsel argues that he should be paid $ 75 (actually, he requested $ 100) for reading this.

 6. 3/17/82 --.25 hours for receipt and review of the motion for extension of time mentioned in item 5. Unless the Court has overlooked an order by Judge Ginger requiring an hour of reading, counsel wishes to be paid for an hour and a quarter for the task of ascertaining that a motion for extension of time had been filed and granted.

 7. 5/25/82 to 6/21/82 -- 1 hour for drafting a motion for extension of time, drafting a letter to cover the extension of time, reviewing the file marked copy of plaintiff's own motion, and reviewing the order granting the extension. There is at most a quarter of an hour of reasonable time here. Moreover, the stated reason for the extension was counsel's press of business in other matters. It is hard to see why counsel should be paid $ 75 for obtaining an extension of time which was entirely for counsel's convenience.

 8. 7/16/82 to 8/5/82 -- 1.5 hours for drafting motion for extension of time and cover letter, reviewing file, reviewing a file stamped copy of counsel's own motion, and reviewing the motion granting the extension of time. Counsel charges.5 hours for preparing, in substance, the exact same motion (and, presumably, letter) which counsel used in item 7. Counsel also recites that he reviewed the file, but it was not reasonable to review a file for nearly an hour simply to ascertain that counsel wanted an extension of time. Again, there is no reason to take half an hour to re-read one's own motion and the extension of time. Also as in item 7, the reason for the extension was counsel's press of business in other matters, so it is hard to see why counsel should be compensated for preparing the motion.

 9. 8/10/82 -- 1 hour to review the file. Periodic review of files is entirely appropriate, but an hour seems excessive, particularly since counsel does not report ...


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