United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Texarkana Division
BARRY A. BRYANT, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
now before this Court is Plaintiff's Application for
Attorney Fees Under the Equal Access to Justice Act
(“EAJA”). ECF No. 17. With this Motion, Plaintiff
requests an EAJA award of $3, 905.20. Id. Defendant
has responded to this Motion and objects to Plaintiff's
Motion. ECF No. 18. The parties have consented to the
jurisdiction of a magistrate judge to conduct any and all
proceedings in this case, including conducting the trial,
ordering the entry of a final judgment, and conducting all
post-judgment proceedings. ECF No. 5. Pursuant to this
authority, the Court issues this Order.
Paul Roberson (“Plaintiff”) appealed to this
Court from the Secretary of the Social Security
Administration's (“SSA”) denial of his
request for disability benefits. ECF No. 1. On February 20,
2018, this Court reversed and remanded Plaintiff's case
pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). ECF
Nos. 15, 16.
14, 2018, Plaintiff filed the present Motion requesting an
award of attorney's fees under the EAJA. ECF No. 17. With
this Motion, Plaintiff requests an award of attorney's
fees of $3, 905.20, representing 4.60 hours of attorney time
in 2016 at an hourly rate of $188.00, 14.10 hours of attorney
time in 2017 at an hourly rate of $192.00, and 1.70 hours of
attorney time in 2018 at an hourly rate of $196.00.
Id. Defendant responded to this Motion on May 29,
2018 and objects to Plaintiff's entire EAJA request by
claiming the Government's position was
“substantially justified” and Plaintiff is not
entitled to an award under EAJA. ECF No. 18. Defendant does
not otherwise object to Plaintiff's request for fees
under the EAJA. Id.
to the EAJA, 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(A), a court must
award attorney's fees to a prevailing social security
claimant unless the Secretary's position in denying
benefits was substantially justified. The Secretary has the
burden of proving that the denial of benefits was
substantially justified. See Jackson v. Bowen, 807
F.2d 127, 128 (8th Cir.1986) (“The Secretary bears the
burden of proving that its position in the administrative and
judicial proceedings below was substantially
justified”). An EAJA application also must be made
within thirty days of a final judgment in an action,
See 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(B), or within thirty
days after the sixty day time for appeal has expired. See
Shalala v. Schaefer, 509 U.S. 292, 298 (1993).
award of attorney's fees under the EAJA is appropriate
even though, at the conclusion of the case, the
plaintiff's attorney may be authorized to charge and to
collect a fee pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 406(b)(1).
Recovery of attorney's fees under both the EAJA and 42
U.S.C. § 406(b)(1) was specifically allowed when
Congress amended the EAJA in 1985. See Gisbrecht v.
Barnhart, 535 U.S. 789, 796 (2002) (citing Pub. L. No.
99-80, 99 Stat. 186 (1985)). The United States Supreme Court
stated that Congress harmonized an award of attorney's
fees under the EAJA and under 42 U.S.C. § 406(b)(1) as
Fee awards may be made under both prescriptions [EAJA and 42
U.S.C. § 406(b)(1)], but the claimant's attorney
must “refun[d] to the claimant the amount of the
smaller fee.”. . .“Thus, an EAJA award offsets an
award under Section 406(b), so that the [amount of total
past-due benefits the claimant actually receives] will be
increased by the . . . EAJA award up to the point the
claimant receives 100 percent of the past-due
Id. Furthermore, awarding fees under both acts
facilitates the purposes of the EAJA, which is to shift to
the United States the prevailing party's litigation
expenses incurred while contesting unreasonable government
action. See id.; Cornella v. Schweiker, 728
F.2d 978, 986 (8th Cir. 1984).
statutory ceiling for an EAJA fee award is $125.00 per hour.
See 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(2)(A). A court is only
authorized to exceed this statutory rate if “the court
determines that an increase in the cost of living or a
special factor, such as the limited availability of qualified
attorneys for the proceedings involved, justifies a higher
fee.” Id. A court may determine that there has
been an increase in the cost of living, and may thereby
increase the attorney's rate per hour, based upon the
United States Department of Labor's Consumer Price Index
(“CPI”). See Johnson v. Sullivan, 919
F.2d 503, 504 (8th Cir. 1990).
present action, Plaintiff's case was remanded to the SSA.
ECF No. 16. Despite the fact this case was remanded,
Defendant claims Plaintiff should not be awarded
attorney's fees under the EAJA because the
Government's position was “substantially
justified.” ECF No. 18. The Secretary has the burden of
proving that the denial of benefits was substantially
justified. See Jackson v. Bowen, 807 F.2d 127, 128
(8th Cir.1986) (“The Secretary bears the burden of
proving that its position in the administrative and judicial
proceedings below was substantially justified”). Here,
the Court finds Defendant has not met that burden.
Accordingly, the Court finds Plaintiff is entitled to an
award under the EAJA.
requests a total award of $3, 905.20 under the EAJA. ECF No.
17. Plaintiff requests these fees at a rate of $188.00 per
attorney hour for work performed in 2016, $192.00 per
attorney hour for work performed in 2017, and $196.00 per
attorney hour for work performed in 2018. Id. These
hourly rates are authorized by the EAJA as long as the
CPI-South index justifies the enhanced rates. See
General Order 39. See also 28 U.S.C. §
2412(d)(2)(A); Johnson, 919 F.2d at 504. In the
present action, Plaintiff's requested rates for work
performed is authorized by CPI-South index. Further,
Defendant does not object to this hourly rate. ECF No. 18.
Thus, this hourly rate is authorized by the EAJA, and this