United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON PLAINTIFF’S APPLICATION AND AFFIDAVIT
FOR ATTORNEY’S FEES UNDER 28 U.S.C. SEC. 2412 [DOC.
Sarah A. L. Merriam United States Magistrate Judge.
November 1, 2011, plaintiff, Zulma Rodriguez
(“plaintiff”) applied for supplemental security
income benefits claiming that she had been disabled since
March 22, 2011. (Certified Transcript of the Record, Compiled
on August 8, 2015, (hereinafter “Tr.”) Tr.
235-44). Following a hearing before an Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”), the ALJ denied plaintiff benefits
on January 31, 2014. (Tr. 8-31). After exhausting her
administrative remedies, plaintiff filed the Complaint in
this case on July 7, 2015. [Doc. #1]. On October 21, 2015,
the Commissioner filed her Answer and the official
transcript. [Doc. #13]. Following an extension of time [Doc.
#20], on January 29, 2016, plaintiff filed her Motion to
Reverse or Remand the Decision of the Commissioner
(“Motion to Reverse”), along with a supporting
memorandum [Doc. #21]. On February 1, 2016, plaintiff filed
her Statement of Material Facts. [Doc. #24]. On March 29,
2016, the Commissioner, with the consent of plaintiff, filed
a Motion for Entry of Judgment Under Sentence Four of 42
U.S.C. §405(g) with Reversal and Remand of the Cause to
Defendant (“Consent Motion to Remand”). [Doc.
#29]. The Consent Motion to Remand recognized that
“additional administrative action is warranted to
remedy the errors in the ALJ's decision.”
Id. at 1. On April 11, 2016, the undersigned issued
a Recommended Ruling granting the Consent Motion to Remand,
and finding as moot, plaintiff's Motion to Reverse. [Doc.
#31]. On April 14, 2016, Chief Judge Janet C. Hall affirmed,
adopted and ratified the Recommended Ruling. [Doc. #32].
Judgment was entered on April 14, 2016. [Doc. #33] .
5, 2016, plaintiff filed an application for attorney's
fees together with a memorandum in support, affidavits, and a
time sheet. [Doc. #34]. The Commissioner has not filed an
opposition. For the reasons set forth herein, plaintiff's
Application and Affidavit for Attorney's Fees Under 28
U.S.C. Sec. 2412 [Doc. #34] is GRANTED, in part, in the
amount of $8, 660.64.
who prevails in a civil action against the United States may
seek an award of fees and costs under the Equal Access to
Justice Act (“EAJA” or the “Act”), 28
U.S.C. §2412, the purpose of which is “to
eliminate for the average person the financial disincentive
to challenging unreasonable government actions.”
Commissioner, I.N.S. v. Jean, 496 U.S. 154, 163
(1990) (citing Sullivan v. Hudson, 490 U.S. 877, 883
(1989)). In order for an award of attorney's fees to
enter, this Court must find (1) that the plaintiff is a
prevailing party, (2) that the Commissioner's position
was without substantial justification, (3) that no special
circumstances exist that would make an award unjust, and (4)
that the fee petition was filed within thirty days of final
judgment. See 28 U.S.C. §2412(d)(1)(B).
seeks fees in the amount of $11, 300.72, representing 58
hours of attorney time at the rate of $194.84 per hour. It is
plaintiff's burden to establish entitlement to a fee
award, and the Court has the discretion to determine what fee
is “reasonable.” Hensley v. Eckerhart,
461 U.S. 424, 433, 437 (1983) (interpreting 42 U.S.C.
§1988, which allows a “prevailing party” to
recover “a reasonable attorney's fee as part of the
costs”). This Court has a duty to review
plaintiff's itemized time log to determine the
reasonableness of the hours requested and to exclude hours
“that are excessive, redundant, or otherwise
unnecessary[.]” Id. at 434. “Determining
a 'reasonable attorney's fee' is a matter that is
committed to the sound discretion of a trial judge.”
J.O. v. Astrue, No. 3:11CV1768(DFM), 2014 WL 1031666, at *1
(D. Conn. Mar. 14, 2014) (quoting Perdue v. Kenny
A., 559 U.S. 542, 558 (2010)).
throughout the Second Circuit have consistently found that
routine Social Security cases require, on average, between
[twenty] and [forty] hours of attorney time to
prosecute.” Poulin v. Astrue, No.
3:10CV1930(JBA)(JGM), 2012 WL 264579, at *3 (D. Conn.
Jan. 27, 2012)(citations & internal quotation marks
omitted); Cobb v. Astrue, No. 3:08CV1130(MRK)(WIG), 2009 WL
2940205, at *3 (D. Conn. Sept. 2, 2009).
the Court finds that plaintiff has satisfied the requirements
of 28 U.S.C. §2412(d)(1)(B), and that an award of fees
may enter. Specifically, the Court finds that: (1) plaintiff
is a prevailing party because the Court granted the
Commissioner's Consent Motion to Remand and ordered a
remand of this matter for further administrative proceedings;
(2) the Commissioner's position was without substantial
justification; (3) on the current record, no special
circumstances exist that would make an award unjust; and (4)
the fee petition was timely filed. 28 U.S.C.
§2412(d)(1)(B). The Court next turns to the
reasonableness of the fees sought.
case, plaintiff's counsel seeks reimbursement for a total
of 58 hours, at the rate of $194.84 per hour. [Doc. #34 at
Although the transcript in this case was comprised of an
enormous 4, 502 pages, the Court finds that a reduction in
fees is warranted. The Court first addresses the time
expended summarizing the administrative record, preparing the
proposed factual stipulation, and preparing the memorandum of
law - totaling 42.2 hours.
Court first notes that counsel for plaintiff represented
plaintiff during the administrative proceedings, and
therefore should have had at least a working knowledge of the
administrative record. See Tr. 14 (ALJ decision noting that
plaintiff was represented by Attorney Meryl Ann Spat); Tr. 32
(appearances at administrative hearing include Attorney Meryl
Ann Spat). Plaintiff's counsel also has extensive
experience in this area of the law. See Doc. #34-1 (listing
77 cases in which counsel has represented plaintiffs in civil
actions in this court). Further, although plaintiff's
counsel submitted a thorough and well-reasoned brief, the
issues raised therein are not overly complex or novel.
Additionally, a significant portion of the memorandum appears
to incorporate the medical chronology contained in
plaintiff's statement of material facts. Accordingly, the
Court finds these factors warrant a reduction in the time
spent by counsel on her efforts summarizing the
administrative record, preparing the proposed factual
stipulation, and preparing the memorandum of law. Cf.
Rodriguez v. Astrue, No. 3:08CV154(JCH)(HBF), 2009 WL
6319262, at *3 (D. Conn. Sept. 3, 2009) (“Relevant
factors to weigh include the size of the administrative
record, the complexity of the factual is reasonable. and
legal issues involved, counsel's experience, and whether
counsel represented the claimant during the administrative
proceedings.”) (internal quotations & multiple
citations omitted), approved in relevant part,
3:08CV154(JCH), 2010 WL 1286895 (D. Conn. Mar. 29, 2010).
Therefore, the Court will reduce plaintiff's
counsel's time for these efforts by two (2) hours.
warranting a reduction in time is what the Court perceives to
be duplicative billing. For example, on January 4, 2016,
plaintiff's counsel billed eight (8) hours to:
“Read review Selian et al, review/search current case
law; review and summarize impossible volume of evidence to
detail and identify all salient portions of transcript;
drafting of memorandum.” [Doc. #34-2 at 2]. In days
prior, however, counsel billed for 22.5 hours reviewing and
summarizing the administrative record for purposes of
drafting the stipulation of facts. Id. at 1. The
Court finds that the work performed on January 4, 2016, is
duplicative of that performed on December 31, 2015, and
January 1 and 3, 2016, and that this also warrants a slight
reduction in time. Accordingly, the Court will reduce
plaintiff's counsel's time by two (2) hours.
warranting a reduction in counsel's time is what appears
to be a duplicative billing entry. On January 5, 2016,
plaintiff's counsel billed seven (7) hours for the
“Drafting of memorandum of law.” [Doc. #34-2 at
2]. On this same date, she billed four (4) hours, for the
very same task. Id. Accordingly, the Court will
reduce plaintiff's counsel's time by four (4) hours
on the basis that the record supports a finding that such
hours were duplicative of other work performed on the file.
plaintiff's counsel billed .5 hours for “Estimated
time for correspondence/discussion regarding fees for EAJA in
absence of necessity for court ruling.” [Doc. #34-2 at
2]. The date for this entry is “8/?/16.” The
Court will not award time that has not actually been spent on
the file, and therefore, a further reduction of .5 hours is
Court also finds that a reduction in time is warranted for
the time billed on April 15, 2016, for “Memorandum of
Law Reviewed.” Id. As of April 15, 2016, the
undersigned had issued a Recommended Ruling, which was
adopted in an endorsement order by Judge Hall. It is hard for
the Court to discern what memorandum of law was reviewed at
this stage of the proceedings. However, giving
plaintiff's counsel the benefit of the doubt that she was
in fact reviewing the two-page Recommended Ruling and related
docket entries, the Court will not entirely deduct this time,
but will instead reduce it by .6 hours. See Ryan v.
Allied Interstate, Inc.,882 F.Supp.2d 628, 636