United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON MOTION FOR AWARD OF ATTORNEY'S
B. FITZSIMMONS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
29, 2012, the plaintiff applied for Supplemental Social
Security (“SSI”) benefits, claiming that she had
been disabled since June 29, 2012. [Tr. 24]. After a hearing,
an ALJ, the ALJ denied plaintiff benefits on April 25, 2014.
[Tr. 47-80]. Having exhausted her administrative remedies,
the plaintiff filed the Complaint in this case on October 5,
2015. [Doc. #1]. On December 14, 2015, the Commissioner filed
an Answer and the official transcript. [Doc. #13]. On April
8, 2016, the plaintiff filed a Motion for Reversal and/or
Remand, together with a memorandum in support. [Doc. #18], to
which the Commissioner responded with a Motion to Affirm the
ALJ's Decision on May 20, 2016. [Doc. #21]. Plaintiff
filed a reply brief on June 6, 2016. [Doc. #24]. Judge
Covello entered an order on May 23, 2017, directing plaintiff
to file medical facts in chronological order and in narrative
form in compliance with the Scheduling Order dated October 5,
2015. [Doc. #26 (citing Doc. #5)]. Plaintiff filed a
Statement of Medical Facts on June 9, 2017. [Doc. #27].
Defendant filed a Medical Statement of Facts on July 5, 2017.
[Doc. #28]. On December 21, 2017, the parties consented to
the jurisdiction of a United States Magistrate Judge and the
case was reassigned to the undersigned. [Doc. #31]. A ruling
granting plaintiff's motion to reverse and remand the
case was filed on March 27, 2018, [Doc. #32], and Judgment
entered on March 30, 2018. [Doc. #33].
25, 2018, plaintiff timely moved for an award of
attorney's fees, filing an affidavit of Attorney Michael
F. Magistrali, a copy of the Fee Agreement and time sheets
from Attorney Magistrali and Attorney Nancy
[Doc. #34]. The defendant filed a brief in opposition to the
motion on June 7, 2018 [Doc. #35].
seeks fees in the amount of $18, 583.70,
consisting of 92.45 hours of attorney time plus 3.95 hours of
clerical time, as follows:
WORK PERFORMED BY
$ 2, 225.74
reasons set forth below, the plaintiff's Motion for
Attorney Fees [Doc. #34] is GRANTED in part
and DENIED in part.
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) (footnote & citation omitted). 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. 28 U.S.C.
§2412(d)(1)(B). Defendant does not contest the
plaintiff's status as a prevailing party in this matter,
or the hourly rate requested by counsel. Rather, the
defendant objects to the number of hours claimed as
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 from “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 quotations omitted);
Cobb v. Astrue, No. 3:08CV1130(MRK)(WIG), 2009 WL
2940205, at *3 (D. Conn. Sept. 2, 2009).
reviewing the time records submitted by Richardson's
attorneys, the Court agrees with the Commissioner that some
reduction in the time awarded is justified. Richardson's
request for 96.4 hours exceeds the twenty to forty hours that
courts in the Second Circuit normally find routine Social
Security cases to require. Dupuy v. Colvin, No.
3:14-CV-01430(SALM), 2015 WL 5304181, at *2 (D. Conn. Sept.
9, 2015). Motion, Memorandum and Reply Brief The Commissioner
argues that “[t]his case did not involve any issues of
first impression, unique or extraordinary facts or procedural
complications ... [and] the medical impairments at issue were
common to many disability appeals involving mental
impairments, migraine headaches and obesity.” [Doc. #35
at 4]. The Court agrees. Here, the administrative record is
1, 225 pages long, and the factual and legal issues were not
particularly novel or difficult, thereby justifying a
reduction of hours.
reduction is warranted to account for the experience of
counsel and apparent efficiencies relating to the use of
research and writing from prior motions. Rivera v. Colvin,
No. 3:14-CV-1012(WIG), 2016 WL 1363574, at *2 (D. Conn. Apr.
6, 2016)(“The 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.”)(citing Seggerman v.
Colvin, No. 3:11CV1219(JBA), 2014 WL 2534876, at *3 (D.
Conn. June 5, 2014)). Thus the Court will reduce the amount
of time that Attorney Meserow claims for reviewing the
record, performing research and drafting the Motion to
Reverse and/or Remand from 64.9 hours to 32
hours. [Doc. #34-1 Attach. C (Meserow Time Sheet)
entries 1/6/16, 3/30/16-4/6/16]. In making this finding, the
Court is mindful that counsel needed additional time to
familiarize themselves with the administrative record (1, 225
pages) as they did not represent Ms. Richardson at the
administrative level. The Court denies Attorney
Magistrali's request for time to review Attorney
Meserow's work in light of her considerable expertise and
experience in Social Security disability cases. [Magistrali
Aff. ¶6-7]. Further, Attorney Meserow's detailed
time records show that she performed the bulk of the work
over eight days from March 30 through April 6, 2016.
Court also disallows plaintiff's reimbursement request
for 16.2 hours for Attorney Meserow to review defendant's
Motion to Affirm and to research and write a 13 page reply
brief. [Doc. #34-1 Attach. C entries 6/2/16, 6/3/16, 6/9/17].
As counsel is aware, reply briefs are not required and the
issues presented ...