United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
HONORABLE SARA LIOI UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is the parties' joint stipulation to award
attorney fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act, 28
U.S.C. § 2412 (“EAJA”). (Doc. No. 21.) For
the reasons and in the manner set forth herein, the joint
stipulation is approved.
December 15, 2016, plaintiff David Huminski filed this action
seeking judicial review of defendant's denial of his
application for a period of disability, disability insurance
benefits, and supplemental security income. On December 6,
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 December
21, 2017, the R&R was accepted and the case was remanded.
parties filed the instant joint stipulation, with supporting
documentation, stipulating to an EAJA award in the amount of
$5, 250.00, indicating that this amount will represent a
compromise of disputed positions and will fully satisfy any
and all of plaintiff's claims for fees, costs, and
expenses under the EAJA.
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 31.6 hours of
legal services performed between October 18, 2016 and January
3, 2018 (including the typical legal services of reviewing
the administrative record, telephone calls, briefing,
reviewing court orders, and the like), plus $415.97 in
expenses (primarily the filing fee), for a total request of
$5, 945.97 in fees and costs. (Doc. No. 21-2.) The Court
finds reasonable both the amount and the nature of the legal
counsel requests a billing rate of $175/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 $5, 250.00 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 his counsel.
(See Doc. No. 21-1.)