United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division
JULIUS L. BRADFORD, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
S. SNEED UNTIED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff's Uncontested
Petition for Award of Attorney Fees Under the Equal Access to
Justice Act (“Motion”). (Dkt. 20.) Defendant does
not object to the relief requested in the Motion.
(Id. ¶ 6.) For the reasons that follow, the
Motion is granted.
21, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Complaint seeking review of the
denial of his claim for Social Security benefits by the
Commissioner of Social Security. (Dkt. 1.) The Court entered
an Order reversing the Commissioner's decision and
remanding the matter for further administrative proceedings
under sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). (Dkt. 17.)
Judgment was entered in Plaintiff's favor on November 22,
2017. (Dkt. 19.) Consequently, Plaintiff filed the Motion on
February 20, 2018, as the prevailing party in this action.
(Dkt. 20.) In his Motion, Plaintiff seeks attorney's fees
for 3.5 hours of work performed in 2017 by attorney Erik W.
Berger. (Id., 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. Sec. 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
February 20, 2018, 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 November 22, 2017. (Dkts. 17, 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 January 21, 2018, 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. 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 $196.25 for work performed by attorney Erik Berger in
2017. (Dkt. 20 at 2-3.) The Court finds that Plaintiff is
entitled to the requested rate, and the Commissioner does not
oppose Plaintiff's request. In total, Plaintiff seeks
$686.88 in fees for 3.5 hours of attorney time expended
litigating this case before this Court, which is represented
in Plaintiff's itemization of the hours expended and the
activities performed. (Dkt. 20, Ex. 1.) The Commissioner does
not oppose the fees requested. As such, the Court finds that
3.5 hours is reasonable and that $686.88 is a reasonable fee
in this case.
Plaintiff requests that the fee award be paid directly to his
attorney. (Dkt. 20 at 4.) 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 his attorney. (Dkt.
20 at 4.) Therefore, the award is payable directly to
Plaintiff s counsel if Plaintiff is not indebted to the
federal government; otherwise, the award is payable directly
to Plaintiff. Accordingly, it is
1. Plaintiff s Uncontested Petition for Award of Attorney
Fees Under the Equal Access to Justice Act (Dkt. 20) is
2. Plaintiff is awarded $686.88 in fees, payable directly to
Plaintiffs counsel if the Commissioner determines that
Plaintiff does ...