United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
HONORABLE SARA LIOI, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is plaintiff's motion for an award of attorney
fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act, 28 U.S.C. §
2412 (“EAJA”). (Doc. No. 20.) Defendant filed a
response, indicating that there is no objection to an EAJA
award, provided plaintiff owes no outstanding debt to the
government. (Doc. No. 21.) For the reasons and in the manner
set forth herein, plaintiff's unopposed motion is
November 3, 2016, plaintiff filed this action seeking
judicial review of defendant's denial of her application
for Supplemental Security Income Benefits and Disability
Insurance Benefits. On November 17, 2017, the assigned
magistrate judge issued a Report and Recommendation
(“R&R”) that the Commissioner's decision
should be vacated and the case remanded for further
proceedings. The Commissioner indicated that she had no
objection to that recommendation and, on December 4, 2017,
the R&R was adopted, remanding the case. The instant
motion followed wherein plaintiff, with supporting
documentation, seeks an EAJA award in the amount of $3,
874.15. Defendant does not oppose the request, provided any
debt to the government is satisfied first.
EAJA requires the government to pay a prevailing
plaintiff's 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).
There is no dispute here that the government's position
was not substantially justified and that plaintiff is the
“prevailing party” under the EAJA. See
Hammock v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., No. 1:12-CV-250,
2015 WL 7292750, at *1 (S.D. Ohio Oct. 26, 2015), report
and recommendation adopted sub nom Hammock v. Acting
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., No. 1:12-CV-250, 2015 WL
7276087 (S.D. Ohio Nov. 18, 2015) (“A plaintiff who
wins a remand of her social security appeal in this Court is
a ‘prevailing party[.]'”).
the parties have stipulated to the amount of an award, the
Court must still examine it for reasonableness. 28 U.S.C.
§ 2412(d)(2)(A) (“fees and other expenses”
includes, inter alia, “reasonable attorney
fees”). The EAJA provides that the amount of an
attorney fee award shall be based upon 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).
submitted by plaintiff's counsel shows 20.50 hours of
legal services (2.60 hours performed during 2016, and 17.90
hours performed during 2017-18), including the typical legal
services of reviewing the administrative record, reviewing
medical records, telephone calls, briefing, reviewing court
orders, and the like. The Court finds both the amount and the
nature of these legal services to be reasonable.
counsel indicates billing rates of $186.32/hour and
$189.37/hour for 2016 and 2017-18, respectively. These rates
are an upward departure from the $125.00 statutory cap. It is
common, although not required, to adjust the statutory hourly
rate to account for cost of living increases since 1996, the
time when that rate was last capped. See Gisbrecht v.
Barnhart, 535 U.S. 789, 796 n. 4, 122 S.Ct. 1817, 152
L.Ed.2d 996 (2002) (“A higher fee may be awarded if
‘the court determines that an increase in the cost of
living … justifies a higher fee.”) (quoting 28
U.S.C. § 2412(d)(2)(A)(ii)); see also Hutchinson v.
Colvin, No. 1:15-cv-1144, 2016 WL 6777804, at *2 (N.D.
Ohio Nov. 16, 2016) (examining the appropriateness of a cost
of living increase).
rates proposed by counsel comport with the measure of
inflation in this geographic region (i.e., the
“Midwest Urban” Consumer Price Index
(“CPI”)). Crenshaw v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., No. 1:13CV1845, 2014 WL 4388154, at *3 (N.D. Ohio
Sept. 5, 2014) (collecting cases).
light of these facts and calculations, the Court finds that
the $3, 874.15 stipulated award is both reasonable and
adequately reflective of “the prevailing market rates
for the kind and quality of services furnished[.]” 28
U.S.C. § 2412(d)(2)(A). This award will be in full
satisfaction of any and all of plaintiff's claims for
fees, costs, and expenses, and is subject to setoff to
satisfy any preexisting debt owed by plaintiff to the United
States. See Astrue v. Ratliff, 560 U.S. 586, 130
S.Ct. 2521, 177 L.Ed.2d 91 (2010).
is directed to determine, within 30 days from the date of
this order, whether plaintiff owes any pre-existing debt to
the United States, to offset any such debt against the award
granted herein, and to generate an invoice for any balance
that directs the Department of Treasury to pay that balance
to plaintiffs attorney pursuant to the attorney's fee
assignment duly signed by plaintiff and her counsel.
(See Doc. No. 20-8.)
reasons set forth herein, plaintiffs unopposed motion for an
award of EAJA attorney fees pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2412
in the amount of $3, 874.15 is granted, and the amount ...