United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR AWARD OF FEES
PURSUANT TO THE EQUAL ACCESS TO JUSTICE ACT
Sarah A. L. Merriam United States Magistrate Judge
Maria Elena Ortiz (“plaintiff”) filed concurrent
applications for Disability Insurance Benefits and
Supplemental Security Income on February 14, 2012, alleging
disability beginning February 28, 2011. (Certified Transcript
of the Administrative Record, compiled on August 2, 2015,
(hereinafter “Tr.”) at 197-209). After a hearing
before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), the
ALJ denied plaintiff benefits on March 19, 2014. See Tr.
18-34. Following the exhaustion of her administrative
remedies, the plaintiff filed the Complaint in this case on
June 22, 2015. [Doc. #1]. On September 4, 2015, the
Commissioner filed her Answer and the official transcript.
[Doc. #19]. On October 30, 2015, the parties consented to the
jurisdiction of a Magistrate Judge. [Doc. #13]. On November
3, 2015, plaintiff filed a Motion to Reverse the Decision of
the Commissioner, together with a memorandum in support
(“motion to reverse”). [Doc. #26]. On February
15, 2016, defendant filed a Motion to Affirm the Decision of
the Commissioner, together with a memorandum in support
(“motion to affirm”)[Doc. #21], to which
plaintiff filed a reply. [Doc. #22].
26, 2016, the undersigned issued a ruling granting
plaintiff's motion to reverse the decision of the
Commissioner, to the extent it sought remand for a new
hearing, and denying defendant's motion to affirm. [Doc.
#23]. The Court found that this matter should be remanded to
the Commissioner “for further consideration and proper
application of the treating physician rule” and
“to reevaluate plaintiff's credibility[.]”
Doc. #23 at 23, 29. Judgment was entered on July 27, 2016.
September 13, 2016, plaintiff filed a Motion for Attorney
Fees Under the EAJA, together with a memorandum in support,
an itemization of time, and an affirmation and waiver of
direct payment of EAJA fees. [Docs. ##25, 26].
Plaintiff's motion seeks an award for attorney fees under
the EAJA in the amount of $7, 720.84, and costs in the amount
of $17.31. See Doc. #25 at 1. The defendant has not filed any
opposition to plaintiff's motion.
reasons set forth herein, the plaintiff's Motion for
Attorney Fees Pursuant to the Equal Access to Justice Act
[Doc. #31] is GRANTED, for the amount of $7, 720.84 in fees
and $17.31 in costs.
who prevails in a civil action against the United States may
seek an award of fees and costs under the EAJA, 28 U.S.C.
§2412, the purpose of which “is to eliminate for
the average person the financial disincentive to challenge
unreasonable governmental actions.” Comm'r,
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 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.
fee applicant bears the burden of establishing entitlement to
an award and documenting the appropriate hours expended and
hourly rates.” Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S.
424, 437 (1983). The Court has the discretion to determine
what fee is reasonable. See Id. at 437. This Court
has a duty to review plaintiff's itemized time log to
determine the reasonableness of the fee 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[.]” Perdue v. Kenny A. ex rel. Winn, 559
U.S. 542, 558 (2010) (quotation marks and citation omitted).
determining whether the amount of time billed is reasonable,
“[g]enerally, district courts in this Circuit have held
that a routine social security case requires from twenty to
forty hours of attorney time.” Hogan, 539 F.Supp.2d at
682; see also Cobb v. Astrue, No.
3:08CV1130(MRK)(WIG), 2009 WL 2940205, at *3 (D. Conn. Sept.
2, 2009). “Relevant factors to weigh include the size
of the administrative record, the complexity of the factual
and legal issues involved, counsel's experience, and
whether counsel represented the claimant during the
administrative proceedings.” Rodriguez v.
Astrue, No. 3:08CV154(JCH)(HBF), 2009 WL 6319262, at *3
(D. Conn. Sept. 3, 2009), approved in relevant part,
3:08CV154(JCH), 2010 WL 1286895 (D. Conn. Mar. 29, 2010).
the Court finds that plaintiff has satisfied the requirements
of 28 U.S.C. §2412(d)(1)(B), and that an award of fees
and costs may enter. Specifically, the Court finds, absent
objection: (1) plaintiff is a prevailing party in light of
the Court's order remanding 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. See 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 34.55 hours, at a rate of $197.13 per hour. See Doc. #26
at 2. Plaintiff's counsel also seeks
reimbursement for 9.1 hours at a rate of $100 per hour for
work performed by a paralegal. See Id. The
transcript in this case was comprised of 731 pages, and
plaintiff's counsel submitted a thorough and
well-reasoned brief, and a joint stipulation of facts.
Further, counsel did not represent plaintiff during the
administrative proceedings, and therefore had to familiarize
himself with the record prior to briefing. See e.g.
Lechner v. Barnhart, 330 F.Supp.2d 1005, 1012 (E.D. Wis.
2004); cf. Barbour v. Colvin, 993 F.Supp.2d 284, 291
the Court finds that the time spent of 34.55 attorney hours
and 9.1 paralegal hours is reasonable, particularly in light
of the defendant's decision not to oppose plaintiff's
motion, which adds weight to the claim that the fee award
claimed is reasonable. Therefore, an award of $7, 720.84 for
fees and $17.31 in costs is appropriate. Plaintiff's
Motion for Attorney Fees Pursuant to the Equal Access to
Justice Act [Doc. #25] is GRANTED.