United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division
PATRICIA L. MAHON, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
S. SNEED UNTIED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff's Petition for
Award of Attorney Fees Under the Equal Access to Justice Act
(“Motion”). (Dkt. 20.) Defendant does not oppose
the relief requested by Plaintiff. (Dkt. 24.) For the reasons
that follow, the Motion is granted.
7, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Complaint seeking review of the
denial of her claim for Social Security benefits by the
Commissioner of Social Security. (Dkt. 1.) The Court entered
an Order reversing in part the Commissioner's decision
and remanding the matter for further administrative
proceedings under sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
(Dkt. 18.) Judgment was entered in Plaintiff's favor and
the case was closed on August 7, 2017. (Dkt. 19.)
Consequently, Plaintiff filed the Motion on November 6, 2017,
as the prevailing party in this action. (Dkt. 20.) In her
Motion, Plaintiff seeks attorney's fees for 37.5 hours of
work performed in 2016 and 2017 by attorney Erik Berger.
(Dkt. 20, Ex. 1.)
entry of a favorable judgment in a Social Security case, a
prevailing party may obtain attorney's fees under the
EAJA. 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(A); Monroe v.
Comm'r of Soc.
Admin., 569 Fed. App'x 833, 834 (11th Cir. 2014).
The EAJA requires the court to award attorney's fees to a
party who prevails against the United States in litigation
unless the court finds that the government's position in
the litigation was “substantially justified” or
that special circumstances make such an award unjust. 28
U.S.C. § 2412(d); Jackson v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 601 F.3d 1268, 1271 (11th Cir. 2010).
may recover an award of attorney's fees under the EAJA if
the following prerequisites are met: (1) the party seeking
the award is the prevailing party; (2) the application for
such fees, including an itemized justification for the amount
sought, is timely filed (i.e., filed within thirty days of
final judgment in the action); (3) the claimant had a net
worth of less than $2 million at the time the complaint was
filed; (4) the position of the government was not
substantially justified; and (5) no special circumstances
exist that would make an award unjust. 28 U.S.C. §
2412(d). A party who obtains a fourth sentence remand in a
Social Security case is considered a prevailing party under
the EAJA. Shalala v. Schaefer, 509 U.S. 292, 302
(1993). To be “substantially justified” under the
EAJA, the government's position must be “justified
to a degree that could satisfy a reasonable person, ”
which requires that the government's position have a
reasonable basis in both law and fact. Monroe, 569
Fed. App'x at 834 (internal quotation and citation
consideration of the Motion and the applicable law, the Court
finds that Plaintiff is entitled to an award of
attorney's fees in this case. First, Plaintiff is the
prevailing party in this case after having obtained a
sentence-four remand. Schaefer, 509 U.S. at 296-97,
302. Second, Plaintiff's Motion, which was filed on
November 6, 2017, was timely filed within thirty days of the
final judgment of this action. This case was remanded upon
order of this Court and judgment was entered in
Plaintiff's favor on August 7, 2017. (Dkts. 18, 19.)
Pursuant to Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(a)(1)(B),
either party has sixty days to file an appeal. Therefore, the
judgment became final on October 7, 2017, and the Motion was
filed prior to the expiration of the thirty-day deadline.
See Jones v. Colvin, No. 8:13-CV-2900-T-33AEP, 2015
WL 7721334, at *1 (M.D. Fla. Nov. 30, 2015). Additionally,
the Commissioner does not dispute the timeliness of the
Motion. Third, the Motion asserts that Plaintiff is not
excluded from eligibility for an award under the EAJA by any
of the exclusions set forth in the Act. (Dkt. 20 ¶ 5.)
Fourth, the Commissioner's position was not substantially
justified in this case, and the Commissioner does not dispute
this issue. Finally, the Court does not find that any special
circumstances exist to indicate that an award of
attorney's fees in this case would be unjust.
Motion, Plaintiff requests that the hourly rate of the fees
awarded be increased to reflect the increase in the cost of
living. Under the EAJA, the amount of attorney's fees to
be awarded “shall be based upon prevailing market rates
for the kind and quality of the services furnished, ”
except that attorney's fees shall not exceed $125 per
hour unless the court determines that an increase in the cost
of living or a special factor justifies a higher fee. 28
U.S.C. § 2412(d)(2)(A). Plaintiff proposes an hourly
rate of $193.38. (Dkt. 20 at 3.) The Court finds that
Plaintiff is entitled to the requested rate, and the
Commissioner does not oppose Plaintiff's request. In
total, Plaintiff seeks $7, 251.75 in fees for 37.5 hours of
attorney time expended in litigating this case, which is
represented in Mr. Berger's itemization of the hours he
expended and the activities he performed. (Dkt. 20, Ex. 1.)
The Commissioner does not oppose the fees requested. As such,
the Court finds that 37.5 hours is reasonable and that $7,
251.75 is a reasonable fee in this case.
Plaintiff requests that the fee award be paid directly to
Plaintiff's attorney. Although EAJA fee awards belong to
the party, not the party's attorney, Reeves v.
Astrue, 526 F.3d 732, 738 (11th Cir. 2008), such fees
may be paid directly to a plaintiffs attorney in cases in
which the plaintiff does not owe a debt to the government and
assigns the right to such fees to the attorney. Astrue v.
Ratliff, 560 U.S. 586, 597 (2010). In this case,
Plaintiff has assigned the EAJA award to her attorney. (Dkt.
20-1.) Therefore, the award is payable directly to Plaintiffs
counsel if Plaintiff is not indebted to the federal
government; otherwise, the award is payable directly to
Plaintiff. Accordingly, it is
Plaintiff s Petition for Award of Attorney Fees Under the
Equal Access to ...