United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division
May 6, 2015
STEVEN PRUITT, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner Social Security Administration, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
MARK E. FORD, Magistrate Judge.
Pending now before this Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Attorney Fees Under the Equal Access to Justice Act ("EAJA"). ECF No. 16, 17. The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of a Magistrate Judge to conduct any and all proceedings in this case, and pursuant to said authority, the Court issues this Order. ECF No. 7.
On April 29, 2015, Plaintiff filed a motion for attorney's fees and costs under 28 U.S.C. § 2412, the Equal Access to Justice Act (hereinafter "EAJA") requesting $2, 682.20 representing a total of 13.15 attorney hours for work performed in 2014 and 2015 at an hourly rate of $188.00 and 5.50 paralegal hours at an hourly rate of $75.00. ECF No. 17-3, 19. On April 30, 2015, the Defendant filed a response voicing no objections to Plaintiff's request for fees. ECF No. 18.
It is the opinion of the undersigned that the Plaintiff is entitled to a fee award in this case, as he is the prevailing party, the government's decision to deny benefits was not "substantially justified", and the time asserted to have been spent in the representation of the Plaintiff before the district court is reasonable. See Jackson v. Bowen, 807 F.2d 127, 128 (8th Cir. 1986) (burden is on the Commissioner to show substantial justification for the government's denial of benefits); Johnson v. Sullivan, 919 F.2d 503 (8th Cir. 1990) (the hourly rate may be increased when there is "uncontested proof of an increase in the cost of living sufficient to justify hourly attorney's fees of more than $75.00 an hour); and Allen v. Heckler, 588 F.Supp. 1247 (W.D.N.Y. 1984) (in determining reasonableness, court looks at time and labor required; the difficulty of questions involved; the skill required to handle the problems presented; the attorney's experience, ability, and reputation; the benefits resulting to the client from the services; the customary fee for similar services; the contingency or certainty of compensation; the results obtained; and, the amount involved). However, the hourly rates requested by the Plaintiff exceed the hourly rates approved by this Court for 2014 and 2015, as adopted in General Order 39.
The undersigned finds the Plaintiff is entitled to an hourly rate of $186.00 for attorney work performed in 2014 and $187.00 for attorney work performed in 2015. Further, the Plaintiff is entitled to $75.00 per hour for paralegal work. Accordingly, Plaintiff is entitled to an attorney's fee award under EAJA in the amount of $2, 448.60.
Pursuant to Astrue v. Ratliff, 130 S.Ct. 2521, 2528 (2010), the EAJA fee award should be made payable to Plaintiff. However, as a matter of practice, an EAJA fee made payable to Plaintiff may properly be mailed to Plaintiff's counsel.
The parties are reminded that, in order to prevent double recovery by counsel for the Plaintiff, the award herein under the EAJA will be taken into account at such time as a reasonable fee is determined pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 406.
Based upon the foregoing, Plaintiff is awarded the sum of $2, 448.60 for attorney's fees pursuant to the EAJA, 28 U.S.C. § 2412.