United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
HONORABLE SARA LIOI UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is the joint stipulation of the parties (Doc. No.
19), supported by documentation (Doc. No. 20 (Supplement
[“Suppl.”])), for an award to plaintiff under the
Equal Access to Justice Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2412
(“EAJA”), of $3, 725.00 in attorney fees and
$0.00 in costs. For the reasons set forth below, the
stipulation is approved.
March 27, 2019, plaintiff filed this action seeking judicial
review of defendant's denial of his application for
Supplemental Security Income. On October 31, 2019, on the
parties' joint stipulation, the case was remanded to the
Commissioner pursuant to Section Four of Section 205 of the
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), with
instructions to the Appeals Council to instruct the
Administrative Law Judge to conduct a new hearing and issue a
new decision. (Doc. Nos. 17, 18.)
requires the government to pay a prevailing plaintiffs
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
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 plaintiffs counsel shows 20 hours of legal
services performed between March 22, 2019 and November 26,
2019, including the typical legal services of reviewing the
administrative record, reviewing medical records, reviewing
email correspondence, briefing, reviewing court orders, and
the like. (Suppl. at 1996.) The Court finds both the amount
and the nature of these legal services to be reasonable.
counsel indicates a billing rate of $186.28/hour. That rate
would be an upward departure from the $125 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, 553 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).
measure of inflation in this geographic region is the Midwest
Urban Consumer Price Index (“CPI-U”), which is
available on the website of the Bureau of Labor Statistics
(https://www.bls.gov). Crenshaw of Comm 'r
of Soc. Sec, No. 1:13CV1845, 2014 WL 4388154, at (3
(N.D. Ohio Sept. 5, 2014) (collecting cases). The average
CPI-U for the period in which plaintiffs counsel provided
services in this case (that is, through November 2019) is
238.850. Dividing this number by 151.7 (the CPI-U for March
1996) results in a cost of living calculation of 1.574 (i.e.,
238.850 ÷ 151.7 = 1.574). Multiplying $125 by 1.574
results in an adjusted hourly rate of $196.75.
light of these facts and calculations, the Court finds that
the $3, 725.00 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). As the parties recognize in
their stipulation, this award will be in full satisfaction of
any and all of plaintiffs claims for fees, costs, and
expenses, and is subject to set off 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 direct payment of the award (or the
balance thereof) to plaintiffs attorney pursuant to the
attorney's fee assignment signed by plaintiff and his
reasons set forth herein, the Court grants the parties'
stipulation (Doc. No. 19) for an award to plaintiff pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 2412 in the amount of $3, 725.00 in
attorney's fees and $0.00 in costs, and this ...