United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
LIOI UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on the application of plaintiff
for an award of attorney fees and costs in the amount of $5,
794.37 (Doc. No. 17), followed by the parties' joint
stipulation for an award of attorney fees and costs under the
Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), 28 U.S.C. § 2412, in
the amount of $5, 494.37. (Doc. No. 18
[“Stip.”].) For the reasons that follow, the
parties' joint stipulation,  which the Court construes as
a joint motion, is granted.
filed this action on October 7, 2016, seeking review of the
Commissioner of Social Security's
(“Commissioner”) decision denying continuation of
her supplemental security income because she is disabled.
(Doc. No. 1.) Subsequently, the parties filed a joint motion
to remand the case for further administrative proceedings
pursuant to the fourth sentence of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
(Doc. No. 14.) The joint motion was granted, and the Court
ordered the case remanded for further proceedings. (Doc. Nos.
15 and 16.)
to the stipulation, the parties' agreement concerning
attorney fees and costs represents a compromise and
settlement of disputed positions, and will fully satisfy all
of plaintiff's fees, costs, and expenses under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2412. (Stip. at 1857.) The stipulation acknowledges
that an award to plaintiff under the EAJA is subject to
offset by any outstanding federal debt owed by plaintiff
pursuant to Astrue v. Ratliff, 560 U.S. 586, 130
S.Ct. 2521, 117 L.Ed.2d 91 (2010). (Id. at 1858.)
The parties further agree that, to the extent the award
payable to plaintiff is not subject to offset by pre-existing
debts to the United States, defendant will direct that the
award be made payable to plaintiff's counsel pursuant to
the attorney fee assignment between plaintiff and his
EAJA requires the government to pay a prevailing social
security plaintiff's reasonable attorney fees and costs
“unless the court finds that the position of the United
States was substantially justified or that special
circumstances make an award unjust.” 28 U.S.C.
2412(d)(1)(A); see Howard v. Barnhart, 376 F.3d 551,
554 (6th Cir. 2004). “Prevailing party” status is
achieved within the meaning of the statute when a plaintiff
succeeds in securing a sentence four remand order.
Shalala v. Schaefer, 509 U.S. 292, 300-02, 113 S.Ct.
2625, 125 L.Ed.2d 239 (1993). Plaintiff brought this action
for judicial review of the Commissioner's decision and
succeeded in securing a sentence four remand for further
consideration of her application. Thus, plaintiff is a
prevailing party within the meaning of the statute.
counsel's EAJA time statement submitted in support of her
fee application indicates that a total of 31.75
hours were expended in this case at a rate of
$182.50, for a total of for a total amount of $5, 794.37.
(Doc. No. 22-1.) The parties' stipulation seeks an award
of $5, 494.37. This amount, divided by the number of hours
for legal services rendered before this Court, results in an
hourly rate calculation of $173.05.
EAJA provides that the amount of an attorney fee award shall
be based on prevailing market rates, but shall not exceed
$125 per hour, unless the Court determines that the cost of
living or special factors justifies a higher fee. 28 U.S.C.
§ 2412(d)(2)(A)(ii). The change in the cost of living
over the years since the $125 per hour rate was established
justifies an increase in the statutory rate. See Crenshaw
v. Commissioner of Social Security, No. 1:13CV1845, 2014
WL 4388154 at *3 (N.D. Ohio Sept. 5, 2014). The appropriate
measure of inflation in this geographic area is the
“Midwest Urban” CPI. Id. (collecting
cases). The Court finds the parties' stipulated
compromise hourly rate of $173.05, considering adjustments
for cost-of-living increases since the enactment of the EAJA,
is both supportable and reasonable. See 28 U.S.C.
it is the government's burden under the EAJA to show that
its position denying benefits was substantially justified.
Wilson v. Astrue, No. 2:10-CV-463, 2011 WL 3664468,
at *1 (S.D. Ohio Aug. 19, 2011) (citations omitted).
Defendant has made no attempt to demonstrate that the
government's denial of plaintiff's disability
application was substantially justified, and the Court is not
aware of any special circumstances that would make an
attorney fee award unjust. Accordingly, the Court awards to
plaintiff the stipulated attorney fees and costs in the sum
of $5, 494.37.
parties recognize in their stipulation, EAJA attorney fees
are subject to offset to satisfy any pre-existing federal
debt owed by plaintiff. Payment of any amount remaining after
offset may be made directly to plaintiffs attorney if
plaintiff has assigned any EAJA attorney fees to the
attorney. Crenshaw, 2014 WL 4388154 at *5. Within 30
days from the date of this Order, the Commissioner shall
initiate payment and request that the Department of Treasury
verify whether plaintiff owes a pre-existing debt to the
government. Any such debt will be offset against the EAJA
award granted herein, and payment of the balance shall be
made as promptly as possible to the plaintiff, or to
plaintiffs attorney, in accordance with the provisions of the
assignment plaintiff has made with respect to any EAJA award.
reasons set forth herein, the parties' joint stipulation
for an award of EAJA attorney fees and costs pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 2412 in the amount of $5, 494.37 is granted.
This amount ...