United States District Court, D. Maryland
Commissioner, Social Security Administration; v.
Amy S. has filed a motion seeking payment of $10, 643.65 in
attorney's fees pursuant to the Equal Access to Justice
Act (“EAJA”). ECF 16. In response, the
Commissioner argues that the total number of hours billed by
Plaintiff's attorney is unreasonable. ECF 17. In her
reply, Plaintiff's attorney applied a twenty percent
discount in hours, reducing the payment sought to $8, 516.13.
ECF 18. I have considered those filings. No. hearing is
necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For the
reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion for payment
of attorney's fees is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.
the EAJA, prevailing parties in civil actions brought by or
against the United States are entitled to an award of
attorney's fees and expenses, unless the court finds the
position of the government was substantially justified or
that special circumstances make an award unjust. 28 U.S.C.
§ 2412(d)(1)(A); Crawford v. Sullivan, 935 F.2d
655, 656 (4th Cir. 1991). To receive attorney's fees, the
prevailing party must submit a fee application and an
itemized statement of fees to the court within thirty days of
final judgment. Id.
the district court determines that a plaintiff has met the
threshold conditions for an award of fees and costs under the
EAJA, the district court must undertake the “task of
determining what fee is reasonable.” Hyatt v.
Barnhart, 315 F.3d 239, 253 (4th Cir. 2002); (quoting
INS v. Jean, 496 U.S. 154, 161 (1990)). Counsel
“should submit evidence supporting the hours worked,
” and exercise “billing judgment” with
respect to hours worked. Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461
U.S. 424, 433-34 (1983). “Hours that are not properly
billed to one's client also are not properly
billed to one's adversary pursuant to statutory
authority.” Id. at 434 (quoting Copeland
v. Marshall, 641 F.2d 880, 891 (D.C. Cir. 1980)
(emphasis in original)). Further, the district court is
accorded “substantial discretion in fixing the amount
of an EAJA award, ” but is charged with the duty to
ensure that the final award is reasonable. Hyatt,
315 F.3d at 254 (quoting Jean, 496 U.S. at 163).
Commissioner does not challenge Plaintiff's right to a
reasonable fee as the prevailing party in this case. ECF 17
at 1. The Commissioner also does not challenge the requested
hourly rate of $200.71. Id. at 5. Thus, the only
remaining issue is Plaintiff's number of hours billed.
Commissioner argues that Plaintiff's request for payment
of 53.03 hours of time is excessive. ECF 17 at 3-5. Courts
within this circuit have held, and I agree, that in typical
Social Security cases it is reasonable for an attorney to
expend between twenty and forty hours. See, e.g.,
Faircloth v. Colvin, 2:13cv156, 2014 WL 5488809, at
*11 (E.D. Va. Oct. 29, 2014); Gibby v. Astrue, Civil
No. 2:09cv29, 2012 WL 3155624, at *5 (W.D. N.C. Aug. 2,
2012). In her Reply, Plaintiff reduced the number of hours
billed to 42.43 hours of work, after applying a twenty
percent discount “as [her attorney] usually does in
these cases.” ECF 18 at 1. While high, this number of
hours is justified based on the work performed in this
the Commissioner argues that Plaintiff's counsel has not
shown that the issues involved in this case were novel or
complex, and that the administrative record in this case was
not unusually lengthy. I have reviewed Plaintiff's
25-page Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF 11, the record, ECF
9, and Ms. Benagh's Time and Task Statement, ECF 16-3. In
light of Plaintiff's voluntary hours-reduction and the
relative legal and factual complexity of the record, an award
of attorney's fees for 42.43 hours is not unreasonable
for the work performed in this particular case.
$200.71 per hour, Plaintiff is entitled to an award of $8,
516.13. Despite the reduction in the hours worked, the amount
remains well above the heartland of recent EAJA fee awards in
cases presenting in a similar procedural posture. See
Williams v. Comm'r, Soc. Sec. Admin., No.
SAG-18-2391 (awarding $3, 850.00 on November 15, 2019);
Scheeler v. Comm'r, Soc. Sec. Admin., No.
SAG-19-235 (awarding $4, 033.00 on November 8, 2019);
Henry v. Comm'r, Soc. Sec. Admin., No.
SAG-19-108 (awarding $1, 435.00 on November 7, 2019);
Pollock v. Comm'r, Soc. Sec. Admin., No.
SAG-19-1192 (awarding $1, 800.00 on November 7, 2019);
Miller v. Comm'r, Soc. Sec. Admin., No.
SAG-18-3485 (awarding $3, 452.68 on November 6, 2019);
Lewis v. Comm'r, Soc. Sec. Admin., No. SAG-19-4
(awarding $1, 770.35 on October 30, 2019); Maddox v.
Comm'r, Soc. Sec. Admin., No. SAG-18-3904 (awarding
$3, 501.66.00 on October 28, 2019). Accordingly,
Plaintiff's Motion for Attorney Fees will be GRANTED IN
PART AND DENIED IN PART. An implementing order follows.
the informal nature of this letter, it should be flagged as
DEBORAH L. BOARDMAN UNITED ...