United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR
S. LASNIK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff Russell
Fritz's motion for attorney's fees pursuant to the
Equal Access to Justice Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2412
(“EAJA”). See Dkt. 30. The Commissioner
of the Social Security Administration
(“Commissioner”) challenges the amount of
plaintiff's requested fees on the grounds that the amount
is unreasonable under the particular facts of this case.
See Dkt. 31. The Court disagrees and GRANTS
plaintiff's motion for statutory fees.
February 2, 2017, this Court issued an order reversing and
remanding the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits
for further administrative proceedings. See Dkt. 29.
On appeal of an order affirming the Commissioner's
decision denying plaintiff benefits, the Ninth Circuit Court
of Appeals concluded that the Commissioner's decision
relied on credibility determinations that were not supported
by substantial evidence and reversed and remanded to this
Court. See id. This Court therefore reversed the
Commissioner's decision pursuant to sentence four of 42
U.S.C. § 405(g) for further administrative proceedings.
action brought by or against the United States, the EAJA
requires that “a court shall award to a prevailing
party other than the United States fees and other expenses .
. . 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). Plaintiff was the prevailing party because the
Court reversed and remanded the Commissioner's decision
to deny benefits for further administrative proceedings.
See Dkt. 29.
to the United States Supreme Court, “the fee applicant
bears the burden of establishing entitlement to an award and
documenting the appropriate hours expended.”
Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 437 (1983). The
Court has an independent duty to review the submitted
itemized log of hours to determine the reasonableness of
hours requested in each case. See id. at 433,
436-37. Once the Court determines that a plaintiff is
entitled to a reasonable fee, “the amount of the fee,
of course, must be determined on the facts of each
case.” Id at 429, 433 n.7. “[T]he most
useful starting point for determining the amount of a
reasonable fee is the number of hours reasonably expended on
the litigation multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate.”
Id at 433. The Supreme Court concluded that where a
plaintiff “has obtained excellent results, his attorney
should recover a fully compensatory fee.” Id.
plaintiff prevailed on the single claim of whether or not the
denial of his social security application was based on
harmful legal error. See Dkt. 29. Plaintiff
requested attorney's fees in the amount of $7, 669.59,
representing 40.2 hours of work. See Dkt. 30-3. The
Commissioner argues that the amount requested is unreasonable
for several reasons, none of which are persuasive.
See Dkt. 31.
the Commissioner argues that plaintiff used block billing
that may have resulted in a request for excessive hours.
See id. at 3-5. The Commissioner argues that
“where an attorney's billing practices-such as
billing in block billing increments rather than
tenth-of-an-hour increments-may result in an overstatement of
the actual time expended, courts may reduce EAJA awards on
grounds of unreasonableness.” See id. at 3.
However, as cited by the Commissioner, plaintiff billed by
the tenth of an hour. See Dkt. 30-3. The
Commissioner then concludes that plaintiff's briefs
contained “a substantial amount of boilerplate
language” and did not involve particularly complex
issues. See Dkt. 31 at 4-5. The Court finds that
neither the content of plaintiff's briefs nor the amount
of time spent on them was outside the norm in the field.
Therefore, plaintiff's billing was not unreasonably
the Commissioner argues that plaintiff billed for clerical
tasks, specifically reviewing in forma pauperis
(“IFP”) paperwork and preparing the EAJA motion,
which should be omitted from the EAJA award. See id.
at 5-6. However, neither of these tasks is strictly clerical
in nature. Reviewing IFP paperwork with a client to ensure
the accuracy of the facts within the motion is not a clerical
task, and the 0.2 hours spent is not unreasonable. Similarly,
preparing an EAJA motion involves reviewing case law, the
facts of the case, and drafting the motion, which are not
clerical tasks. Claimants may be awarded fees for hours
reasonably expended in seeking attorney's fees under the
EAJA. See Comm'r, I.N.S. v. Jean, 496 U.S. 154,
the Court finds reasonable plaintiff's original request
for attorney's fees in the amount of $7, 669.59. The
Court also finds reasonable plaintiff's request for
$404.63 for 2.1 hours of additional work replying to the
Commissioner's objection to his request for fees. See
Jean, 496 U.S. at 162-66.
is awarded $8, 074.22 in attorney's fees pursuant to the
EAJA and consistent with Astrue v. Ratliff, 130
S.Ct. 2521, 2524 (2010). Plaintiff's award is subject to
any offset allowed pursuant to the Department of
Treasury's Offset Program. See id. at 2528. The
check for EAJA fees shall be mailed to plaintiff's
counsel: Amy ...