United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
G. WILSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
cause came on for consideration upon the Plaintiffs Motion
for Attorney's Fees Pursuant to the Equal Access to
Justice Act (Doc. 19) filed by counsel for the plaintiff on
October 23, 2017. Having considered the application, the
parties' stipulation as to the reasonableness of the
amount, and the pertinent factors regarding an award of
attorney's fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act
("EAJA"), I recommend that the plaintiff be awarded
$2, 056.05 in attorney's fees and $38.33 in costs, to be
paid by virtue of a fee assignment, to plaintiffs counsel by
the defendant if the plaintiff does not owe a debt to the
United States Department of the Treasury.
applicant represented the plaintiff in this action seeking
review of a denial of social security disability benefits and
supplemental security income payments. The Commissioner
subsequently filed a Unopposed Motion for Entry of Judgment
with Remand, which was granted by the court (Docs. 16, 17).
Accordingly, the matter was remanded to the Social Security
Administration (Doc. 17). Judgment was entered in favor of
the plaintiff on August 3, 2017 (Doc. 18). The plaintiff then
filed an application for attorney's fees under the EAJA,
and requests that the fees be paid directly to her attorney
if the United States Department of the Treasury determines
that the plaintiff does not owe a federal debt (Doc. 19, p.
6; Doc. 19-6). The Supreme Court in Astrue
v. Ratliff, 560 U.S. 586 (2010), approved
the payment of fees directly to a plaintiffs attorney in
cases where the plaintiff does not owe a debt to the
government and assigns the right to such fees to the
EAJA requires a court to award attorney's fees to any
party prevailing in litigation against the United States
unless the court finds that the position of the United States
was "substantially justified" or that "special
circumstances" make such an award unjust. 28 U.S.C.
2412(d)(1)(A). In this case, the applicant has requested an
award of attorney's fees in the amount of $2, 056.05
(Doc. 19, p. 1). This amount represents 1.1 hours of service
before the court in 2016 and 2017 by attorney Suzanne Harris
at an hourly rate of $ 191.86, and 24.6 hours of services at
an hourly rate of $75.00 by paralegals and attorneys not
admitted to this court (Doc. 19, p. 4-5; 19-3, 19-4). A Joint
Stipulation has been filed, in which the parties agree to the
amount of the attorney's fees and costs (Doc. 20).
is no question that the plaintiff is a prevailing party.
See Shalala v. Schaefer, 509 U.S. 292, 302 (1993).
Moreover, the defendant has not suggested any basis for
determining that an award of attorney's fees would be
unjust. Consequently, the plaintiff is entitled to an award
of attorney's fees.
plaintiffs counsel's time sheets list 31.3 billable
hours, the parties agreed to settle the matter for what
amounts to 25.7 hours for services performed in this case.
This reduction of hours is appropriate, and the total number
of hours sought is reasonable.
counsel's hourly rate, the plaintiff proposes a rate of
$75.00 for the work of paralegals, and attorneys that are not
admitted in this court. The plaintiff states correctly that
she may recover paralegal fees for work traditionally done by
an attorney (Doc. 19, p. 4, citing Richlin Security
Services Co. v. Chertoff, 553 U.S. 571, 581 (2008)).
See also Jean v. Nelson, 863 F.2d 759, 778
(11th Cir. 1988). Furthermore, the hourly rate of
$75.00 is unquestionably reasonable. Accordingly, I recommend
that the work of paralegals, and attorneys that are not
admitted in this court, be compensated at an hourly rate of
counsel Suzanne Harris requests an hourly rate of $191.86 for
1.1 hours of attorney time spent on this matter (Doc. 19, p.
4; Doc. 19-4). I regularly reject that hourly rate as
unreasonable because, in my view, a lawyer who has prevailed
in a Social Security case should not receive an hourly rate
higher than the maximum rate for criminal defense lawyers
appointed to defend capital cases. See, e.g..
Natkin v. Nancy A. Berryhill Acting
Commissioner of Social Security, 8:15-CV-162-T-TGW, Doc.
34. However, in this case, the difference is de
minimis (less than $15, based on my regularly
awarded rate of $180), and the overall award of
attorney's fees is reasonable. Accordingly, I recommend
that attorney Harris be compensated at an hourly rate of
$191.86 for 1.1 hours in this case.
the plaintiff requests reimbursement of $38.33 in litigation
expenses. This cost is for Federal Express to mail the filing
documents to the court (Doc. 19-17). Litigation expenses,
such as postage, are compensable under the EAJA "if they
are necessary to the preparation of the [prevailing]
party's case." Jean v.
Nelson, supra, 863 F.2d at 778,
quoting 28 U.S.C. 2412(d)(2)(A). Although it is
unclear why counsel chose the more costly option of Federal
Express, instead of the United States Parcel Service, the
defendant stipulated to payment of this cost and, as
indicated, the overall amount sought by this motion is
foregoing reasons, I recommend that the Plaintiffs Motion for
Attorney's Fees Pursuant to the Equal Access to Justice
Act (Doc. 19) be granted, and the applicant be awarded the
amount of $2, 056.05, and $38.33 in costs to be paid to the
plaintiffs counsel by the defendant pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
2412(a)(1), (c)(1), (d)(1)(A), (B), if the plaintiff is not
indebted to the United States Department of the Treasury.
submitted, NOTICE TO PARTIES
has fourteen days from this date to file written objections
to the Report and Recommendation's factual findings and
legal conclusions. A party's failure to file written
objections waives that party's right to challenge on
appeal any unobjected-to factual finding or legal conclusion
the district judge adopts from the Report and Recommendation.
11th Cir. R. 3-1.