United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Jacksonville Division
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S UNOPPOSED MOTION FOR
PATRICIA D. BARKSDALE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
in the case, the Court reversed the Acting Commissioner of
Social Security's denial of Danny Joe Stalnaker's
application for disability-insurance benefits and, under
sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), remanded for
further proceedings. Doc. 25. He now requests, under the
Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), 28 U.S.C. § 2412, an
award of $4324.77 in attorney's fees. Doc. 27. The Acting
Commissioner does not oppose the request. Doc. 27 at 6.
ruling on an EAJA request, a court must decide if the
requesting party is eligible and the requested attorney's
fees and costs are reasonable. Comm'r, I.N.S. v.
Jean, 496 U.S. 154, 160-61 (1990). A party is eligible
if (1) he prevailed in a case against the United States, (2)
he timely requested them, (3) his net worth did not exceed $2
million when he filed the case, (4) the United States'
position was not substantially justified, and (5) no special
circumstance would make the award unjust. Id. at
158; 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1) & (2).
social-security plaintiff prevails if the court orders a
sentence-four remand. Shalala v. Schaefer, 509 U.S.
292, 300-02 (1993). An EAJA request is timely if made within
30 days of the final judgment, which, if no appeal is taken,
is 90 days from the judgment's entry. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 2412(d)(1)(B) & (d)(2)(G) (“final
judgment” is judgment that is final and not
appealable); Fed. R. App. P. 4(a)(1)(B) (notice of appeal
must be filed within 60 days of judgment in case in which
United States is party). A premature EAJA request is timely.
Myers v. Sullivan, 916 F.2d 659, 679 n.20 (11th Cir.
1990). An EAJA request must contain an allegation that the
Commissioner's position was not substantially justified,
Jean, 496 U.S. at 160, and, if made, the Commissioner bears
the burden of showing that it was, United States v.
Jones, 125 F.3d 1418, 1425 (11th Cir. 1997). A court may
deny an EAJA request based on equitable considerations.
Scarborough v. Principi, 541 U.S. 401, 422-23
first four conditions are satisfied here, and, as to the
fifth one, no equitable consideration is apparent or
presented that would make an EAJA award unjust. Stalnaker
prevailed because the Court ordered a sentence-four remand.
Doc. 25 at 1. His September 27, 2017, request, Doc. 27, was
timely because he made it before the judgment became final,
Doc. 26. His net worth was less than $2 million when he filed
the case. Doc. 3. The motion includes an allegation that the
Acting Commissioner's position was not substantially
justified, Doc. 27 at 4, and the Acting Commissioner has not
attempted to satisfy her burden of showing otherwise. The
Acting Commissioner does not contend that the case presents a
special circumstance, and none is apparent. Thus, Stalnaker
is eligible to receive an EAJA award, and the only remaining
issue is whether the requested amount is reasonable.
EAJA provides an attorney's fee “shall be based
upon prevailing market rates for the kind and quality of the
services furnished, except ... shall not be awarded in excess
of $125 per hour unless the court determines that an increase
in the cost of living [since 1996, the date of the last
amendment to the amount, ] or a special factor, such as the
limited availability of qualified attorneys for the
proceedings involved, justifies a higher fee.” 28
U.S.C. § 2412(d)(2)(A)(ii).
EAJA ... establishes a two-step analysis for determining the
appropriate hourly rate to be applied in calculating
attorney's fees under the Act.” Sullivan, 958 F.2d
1029, 1033 (11th Cir. 1992). “The first step ... is to
determine the market rate for similar services provided by
lawyers of reasonably comparable skills, experience, and
reputation.” Id.(internal quotation marks
omitted). “The second step, which is needed only if the
market rate is greater than [$125] per hour, is to determine
whether the court should adjust the hourly fee upward from
[$125] to take into account an increase in the cost of living
[since 1996], or a special factor.” Id. at
1033-34. “By allowing district courts to adjust
upwardly the [$125] hourly fee cap to account for inflation,
Congress undoubtedly expected that the courts would use the
cost-of-living escalator to insulate EAJA fee awards from
inflation ….” Id. at 1034.
party requesting fees must demonstrate reasonableness.
Norman v. Housing Auth. of City of Montgomery, 836
F.2d 1292, 1299 (11th Cir. 1988). That burden includes
“supplying the court with specific and detailed
evidence.” Id. at 1303. A court is
“‘itself an expert'” on reasonable
rates, may consider its own “‘knowledge and
experience'” concerning reasonable rates, and may
“‘form an independent judgment either with or
without the aid of witnesses as to value.'”
Id. at 1303 (quoting Campbell v. Green, 112
F.2d 143, 144 (5th Cir.1940)). If there is lack of support, a
court may make the award on its own experience if it provides
sufficient information to allow meaningful review.
Id. at 1303-04.
addition to demonstrating the reasonableness of rates, a
party requesting EAJA fees must show the reasonableness of
the number of hours expended. Watford v. Heckler,
765 F.2d 1562, 1568 (11th Cir. 1985).
is represented by William E. Horne, Jr., Esquire. Stalnaker
provides no information on Horne's skills, experience, or
reputation, or evidence to establish the prevailing rate in
Jacksonville. But it is known in the legal community and by
this Court, and reflected in his many appearances in
social-security cases in this Court, that he has long
specialized in social-security work.
requests an hourly rate of $191.25 for work performed in 2016
and $194.68 for work performed in 2017. Doc. 27 at 5. On the
first step (determining the market rate for similar services
provided by lawyers of reasonably comparable skills,
experience, and reputation), based on the Court's own
knowledge and expertise, the Court finds the market rate in
Jacksonville for services provided by lawyers of comparable
skills, experience, and reputation exceeds $125 an hour. On
the second step (determining whether to adjust the rate
upward from $125), the Court finds the increase in the cost
of living from 1996 to 2016 and 2017 justifies an upward
adjustment from $125 to the rates Stalnaker requests. See
Doc. 27 at 5; Fed. Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, CPI
Calculator, https://www.minneapolisfed.org (last visited Nov.
spent 22.25 hours on the case. Doc. 27 at 4. He provides a
breakdown of the tasks he performed, when he performed them,
and how long he took to perform them. Doc. 27 at 9-10. Work
included meeting with Stalnaker and preparing a 19-page
memorandum that set forth a summary of the administrative
record and successful arguments, Doc. 23. See Doc. 27 at
9-10. None of the work appears clerical or secretarial, and
none appears excludable as unnecessary. See Doc. 27 at 9-10.
The number of hours is reasonable.
the number of hours and requested rates, attorney's fees
of $4324.77 ($191.25 x 2 = $382.50; $194.68 x 20.25 =
$3942.27; $382.50 $3942.27 = $4324.77) are reasonable.
award is to the party, not his attorney. Astrue v.
Ratliff,560 U.S. 586, 592-93 (2010). Because Stalnaker
is eligible and his requested attorney's fees are
reasonable, the Court grants the motion, Doc. 27, and awards
him the requested attorney's fees. The Court leaves to
the Acting Commissioner's discretion whether to accept