United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division
HOLMES, III CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
Sonya Drevdahl, appealed the Commissioner's denial of
benefits to this Court. On May 12, 2017, judgment was entered
remanding Plaintiff's case to the Commissioner pursuant
to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). (Doc. 15).
Plaintiff now moves for an award of $6, 312.00 in
attorney's fees and expenses under 28 U.S.C. § 2412,
the Equal Access to Justice Act (hereinafter
“EAJA”), requesting compensation for 33.57
attorney hours of work before the Court at an hourly rate of
$187.00 for work performed in 2015, $188.00 per hour for work
performed in 2016, and $192.00 per hour for work performed in
2017. (Docs. 16-17). Defendant filed a response to
Plaintiff's application, objecting to certain hours
claimed. (Doc. 18).
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 2.00 hours of
attorney work performed in 2015, at an hourly rate of
$187.00; 30.47 hours of attorney work performed in 2016, at
an hourly rate of $188.00; and 1.10 hours of attorney work
performed in 2017, at an hourly rate of $192.00. 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 $187.00 per hour in 2015,
$188.00 per hour in 2016, and $192.00 per hour in 2017.
Court next addresses the number of hours Plaintiff's
counsel claims she spent working on this case. Defendant
argues that the 2.00 hours submitted on December 16, 2015,
and the 0.50 hour submitted on February 19, 2016, should be
denied as it was work performed six months prior to the
filing of the Complaint and appears to be discussing a
subsequent case, not the case currently before this Court.
The Court agrees with Defendant. See Cornella v.
Schweiker, 728 F.2d 978, 988-89 (8th Cir. 1984)(time
spent at the administrative level is not compensable under
Court further notes Plaintiff's counsel had three
subsequent meetings with Plaintiff to discuss this case prior
to filing the Complaint. Accordingly, 2.50 attorney hours
must be deducted from the total compensable time sought by
also argues that the following time should be considered
clerical and not compensable under the EAJA:
June 30, 2016 Receive Clerk's Order of reassignment 0.2
November 16, 2016 Send Brief 0.2 hour, and
May 12, 2017 Receive Order from Federal Judge ...