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 application for payment of
attorney fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act, 28
U.S.C. § 2412 (“EAJA”). (Doc. No. 20.) The
Commissioner filed a response indicating that there is no
objection to the award of fees, provided any pre-existing
debt that plaintiff may owe to the United States is first
offset against the award. (Doc. No. 21.) For the reasons and
in the manner set forth herein, plaintiff's application
October 21, 2016, plaintiff Abdulkarim Muhammad filed this
action seeking judicial review of defendant's denial of
his application for supplemental security income under Title
XVI of the Social Security Act. On October 10, 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. On October 26, 2017, the
R&R was accepted and the case was remanded.
filed the instant application, with supporting documentation,
requesting an EAJA award in the amount of $7, 030.94.
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 Commissioner has no objection to the amount of the award
requested by plaintiff, 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. §
submitted by plaintiff's counsel shows 37.75 hours of
legal services performed between January 19, 2017 and May 5,
2017 (including the typical legal services of reviewing the
administrative record, telephone calls, researching,
briefing, reviewing court orders, and the like). (Doc. No.
20-3.) The Court finds reasonable both the amount and the
nature of the legal services performed.
counsel requests a billing rate of $186.25/hour. This rate is
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 unopposed award of $7, 030.94 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 pre-existing 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 plaintiff's attorney pursuant to the attorney's
fee assignment duly signed by plaintiff and his counsel.
(See Doc. No. 20-4.)