United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
MARK E. FORD, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
now before this Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Attorney
Fees Under the Equal Access to Justice Act
(“EAJA”). ECF Nos. 17, 18. The matter is before
the undersigned by consent of the parties. ECF No. 6.
October 28, 2016, 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
$6, 281.40, representing a total of 26.00 attorney hours for
work performed in 2015 at an hourly rate of $187.00, 7.50
attorney hours for work performed in 2016 at an hourly rate
of $188.00, and $24.13 in postage expense. ECF No. 17, 18. On
November 10, 2016, the Commissioner filed a response
objecting to the number of attorney hours for which the
Plaintiff seeks compensation. ECF No. 19. Plaintiff filed a
reply on November 22, 2016, contending that she is entitled
to compensation for all of the time requested. ECF No. 20.
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
EAJA 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 v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983).
EAJA is not designed to reimburse without limit. Pierce
v. Underwood, 487 U.S. 552, 573 (1988). In 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
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. Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424,
430 (1983). Further, 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.”).
present action, Plaintiff's case was remanded by this
Court pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
The Commissioner does not contest Plaintiff's claim that
he is the prevailing party and does not oppose his
application for fees under the EAJA. ECF No. 19. The Court
construes this lack of opposition to this application as an
admission that the government's decision to deny benefits
was not “substantially justified, ” and that
Plaintiff is the prevailing party and entitled to receive an
award under the EAJA.
Defendant objects to 2.20 attorney hours expended between
August 10 - 17, 2015, for a complete review of the file to
determine if an appeal is warranted; a telephone call with
the Plaintiff regarding his appeal and scheduling an office
visit; a telephone call with the client rescheduling his
office visit; and, an office visit with the Plaintiff at
which time the appeal process was explained to him and all of
the case initiation paperwork was drawn up and signed. Citing
Pray v. Astrue, 2011 WL 6937603, *2 (W.D. Ark.
December 2, 2011) (finding certain tasks to be administrative
in nature), Defendant contends that Plaintiff's attorney
is not entitled to recover EAJA fees for any hours of work
performed before a district court action begins. We disagree.
An attorney is expected to be familiar with her case prior to
filing a complaint in federal court. At the very least, this
will require her to review notes from the administrative
proceedings, communicate with her client regarding the
appellate process, determine whether her client is a
candidate for in forma pauperis, and prepare the
complaint for filing with the court.
also objects to a total of 1.95 attorney hours, arguing that
the tasks performed were clerical in nature and did not
require any legal expertise. ECF No. 19. We are governed by
Granville House, Inc. v. Department of HEW, 813 F.2d
881, 884 (8th Cir. 1987), which held that work which could
have been completed by support staff is not compensable under
the EAJA. This case asserts that it is the task, ...