United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division
JENNY R. CHAMPLIN PLAINTIFF
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner Social Security Administration DEFENDANT
ERIN L. SETSER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Jenny R. Champlin, appealed the Commissioner's denial of
benefits to this Court. On December 21, 2015, judgment was
entered remanding Plaintiff's case to the Commissioner
pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). (Doc.
21). Plaintiff now moves for an award of $7, 787.29 in
attorney’s fees and expenses under 28 U.S.C. §
2412, the Equal Access to Justice Act (hereinafter
“EAJA”), requesting compensation for 39.40
attorney hours of work before the Court at an hourly rate of
$186.00 for work performed in 2014, $187.00 per hour for work
performed in 2015, $188.00 per hour for work performed in
2016, and $423.64 in expenses. (Docs. 22-23). Defendant filed
a response to Plaintiff’s application, objecting to
certain hours claimed. (Doc. 24).
to 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(A), the Court must award
attorney’s fees to a prevailing social security
claimant unless the Commissioner’s position in denying
benefits was substantially justified. The burden is on the
Commissioner to show substantial justification for the
government’s denial of benefits. Jackson v.
Bowen, 807 F.2d 127, 128 (8th Cir. 1986). Under
Shalala v. Schaefer, 509 U.S. 292, 302 (1993), a
social security claimant who obtains a sentence-four judgment
reversing the Commissioner’s denial of benefits and
remanding the case for further proceedings is a prevailing
party. After reviewing the file, the Court finds that
Plaintiff is a prevailing party in this matter.
determining a reasonable attorney’s fee, the Court will
in each case consider the following factors: time and labor
required; the novelty and difficulty of questions involved;
the skill required to handle the problems presented; the
preclusion of employment by the attorney due to acceptance of
the case; the customary fee; whether the fee is fixed or
contingent; time limitations imposed by the client or the
circumstances; the amount involved and the results obtained;
the attorney’s experience, reputation and ability; the
“undesirability” of the case; the nature and
length of the professional relationship with the client; and
awards in similar cases. Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461
U.S. 424, 430 (1983).
the EAJA is not designed to reimburse without limit.
Pierce v. Underwood, 487 U.S. 552, 573 (1988). The
Court can determine the reasonableness and accuracy of a fee
request, even in the absence of an objection by the
Commissioner. Clements v. Astrue, 2009 WL 4508480
(W.D. Ark. Dec. 1, 2009); see also Decker v.
Sullivan, 976 F.2d 456, 459 (8th Cir. 1992)
(“Although the issue was not raised on appeal, fairness
to the parties requires an accurately calculated
attorney’s fee award.”).
EAJA further requires an attorney seeking fees to submit
“an itemized statement...stating the actual time
expended and the rate at which fees and other expenses were
computed.” 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(B). Attorneys
seeking fees under federal fee-shifting statutes such as the
EAJA are required to present fee applications with
“contemporaneous time records of hours worked and rates
claimed, plus a detailed description of the subject matter of
the work.” Id. Where documentation is
inadequate, the Court may reduce the award accordingly.
Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433 (1983).
attorney requests an award under the EAJA for 7.65 hours of
attorney work performed in 2014, at an hourly rate of
$186.00; 28.25 hours of attorney work performed in 2015, at
an hourly rate of $187.00; and 3.50 hours of attorney work
performed in 2016, at an hourly rate of $188.00. The party
seeking attorney fees bears the burden of proving that the
claimed fees are reasonable. Hensley, 461 U.S. at
437. Attorney fees may not be awarded in excess of $125.00
per hour - the maximum statutory rate under §
2412(d)(2)(A) - unless the court finds that an increase in
the cost of living or a special factor such as the limited
availability of qualified attorneys justifies a higher fee.
28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(2)(A).
to General Order 39,  which references the Consumer Price Index
(CPI) - South, the Court finds that an enhanced hourly rate
based on a cost of living increase is appropriate, and
counsel will be compensated at $186 per hour in 2014, $187
per hour in 2015, and $188.00 per hour in 2016.
Court next addresses the number of hours Plaintiff's
counsel claims she spent working on this case.
makes a generalized argument that 4.20 hours of the following
5.20 hours submitted by Plaintiff’s counsel should be
deducted as it was work performed at the administrative
8/6/2014 ORDER/OPINIONS. Receipt and review of 7/31/2014
Appeals Council denial; ALJ Starr decision; review of hearing
notes and formulation of initial recommendations…1.0,
08/07/2014 CORRESPONDENCE. Correspondence to client
explaining appeal rights and summary of LJM
08/30/2014 ROF. Full review of file in preparation of federal
appeal, review of anticipated federal appeal points from the
hearing notes and comparison to actual Unfavorable Decision
regarding anticipated errors. Notes were that this was a
“massively clear cut case” and could not
understand why ALJ did not inform the claimant at hearing
that won in light of avascular necrosis, bilateral, s/p THA
combined with obesity. New notes in comparison: ALJ omitted
severe nerve damage in bilateral lower extremities, CFS,
depression, and spinal stenosis; all alleged in PHM but not
in UFD. No discussion of specific listings by number. MSCE
diagnosis MDD, moderate, basic cognitive tasks; RFC errors;
review of VE Spragins numbers and DOT job titles. Contact
with client to confirm permission to appeal but unable to
reach; LJM drafted complaint in anticipation of authority to
file. LJM discussion of case with paralegal…1.50,
09/05/2014 CLIENT CALL. Discussion with client regarding IFP
requirements and potential qualification. I spoke w/CL re:
IFP - CL husband works 36 hours at $8 an hr and CL has since
gotten a full time job 40 hrs a wk @$13.00 an hr therefore
would not qualify for IFP and can’t afford $400.00 for
filing and doesn't want to appeal as thinks case has gone
on to(sic) long…0.50,
09/17/2014 CLIENT CALL E-MAIL. Third and fourth client phone
calls regarding federal appeal, fees, and IFP
09/20/2014 CLIENT CALL E-MAIL. Numerous client phone calls
and emails regarding work conditions, IFP qualifications, and
forms completion. Confirmation that client is indeed eligible
for IFP and set up live appointment time to meet with me on
09/24/2014 CLIENT CALL. Multiple client calls in response to
no show for IFP completion live with me on 22nd.