United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
MARGARITA M. BATTLES, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S CONTESTED MOTION FOR
ATTORNEY'S FEES PURSUANT TO THE EQUAL ACCESS TO JUSTICE
Richard Creatura United States Magistrate Judge.
Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c),
Fed.R.Civ.P. 73 and Local Magistrate Judge Rule MJR 13
(see also Notice of Initial Assignment to a U.S.
Magistrate Judge and Consent Form, Dkt. 5; Consent to Proceed
Before a United States Magistrate Judge, Dkt. 6). This matter
comes before the Court on plaintiff's contested motion
for attorney's fees and expenses pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2412 (hereinafter “EAJA”) (see
Dkt. 19, 20, 21).
to plaintiff's success at obtaining a reversal of the
decision of the Social Security Administration, defendant
Commissioner challenged plaintiff's request for statutory
attorney's fees on the grounds that the requested fees
are unreasonable “in light of the results
obtained.” Response, Dkt. 20, p. 1.
considering and reviewing the record, including
plaintiff's motion for attorney's fees and expenses,
and the attached time and expense sheet (see Dkt.
19), as well as the excellent results obtained by
plaintiff's counsel, the Court finds that plaintiff's
fee request is reasonable (see id.; see also Reply,
Dkt. 21). Just because the Court exercises judicial economy
and declines to discuss every argument raised by plaintiff as
to why the matter should be reversed does not mean that
plaintiff obtained limited success.
plaintiff's motion for fees and expenses is granted
pursuant to the Equal Access to Justice Act, 28 U.S.C. §
2412 (“EAJA”) in the amount of $7, 773.98 in
attorney's fees, which includes the additional 1.9 hours
incurred defending the motion, and $2.87 for expenses.
and PROCEDURAL HISTORY
21, 2017, this Court issued an Order reversing and remanding
this matter for further consideration by the Administration
(see Dkt. 16). The Court found that the ALJ erred
when evaluating the medical evidence (see id.). This
matter was reversed pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g) for further consideration due to the harmful
error in the evaluation of the medical evidence (see
plaintiff filed a motion for EAJA attorney's fees, to
which defendant objected (see Dkts. 19, 20).
Defendant asserts that the amount of hours expended are
unreasonable (Dkt. 20, p. 1). Plaintiff filed a reply
(see Dkt. 21).
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).
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
government has the burden of proving that its positions
overall were substantially justified. Hardisty v.
Astrue, 592 F.3d 1072, 1076 n.2 (9th Cir. 2010), cert.
denied, 179 L.Ed.2d 1215, 2011 U.S. LEXIS 3726 (U.S. 2011)
(citing Flores v. Shalala, 49 F.3d 562, 569-70 (9th
Cir. 1995)). Further, if the government disputes the
reasonableness of the fee, then it also “has a burden
of rebuttal that requires submission of evidence to the
district court challenging the accuracy and reasonableness of
the hours charged or the facts asserted by the prevailing
party in its submitted affidavits." Gates v.
Deukmejian, 987 F.2d 1392, 1397-98 (9th Cir. 1992)
(citations omitted). 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
Hensley, supra, 461 U.S. at 433, 436-37.
matter, plaintiff clearly was the prevailing party because
she received a remand of the matter to the administration for
further consideration (see Order on Complaint, Dkt.
16). In order to award a prevailing plaintiff attorney fees,
the EAJA also requires a finding that the position of the
United States was not substantially justified. 28 U.S.C.
§ 2412(d)(1)(B). Defendant implicitly conceded that the
government's position was not substantially justified, as
defendant argues that plaintiff's recovery for
attorney's fees should be reduced, not eliminated
(see Defendant's Response to Plaintiff's
Motion for Attorney Fees, Dkt. 20).
Court agrees with defendant's implicit concession
(see id.). This conclusion is based on a review of
the relevant record, including the government's
administrative and litigation positions regarding the
evaluation of the medical evidence. For these reasons, and
based on a review of the relevant record, the Court concludes
that the government's position in this matter as a whole
was not ...