United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
DENNIS J. ROBINSON, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner of the Social Security Administration for Operations, Defendant.
ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S CONTESTED MOTION FOR
ATTORNEYS' 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 attorneys' fees and expenses pursuant to the Equal
Access to Justice Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2412 (hereinafter
“EAJA”) (see Dkt. 22; see also
Dkts. 24, 25).
to plaintiff's success at obtaining a reversal of the
decision of the Social Security Administration, defendant
Commissioner challenged plaintiff's request for statutory
attorneys' fees on the grounds that the requested fees
are unreasonable given the circumstances of this case
(see Response, Dkt. 24, p. 1 (citing 28
§ U.S.C. 2412)).
considering and reviewing the record, including the
Court's admonition that “[p]laintiff shall not
include a lengthy recitation of background facts or medical
evidence” except in context of specific errors alleged,
the Court concludes that plaintiff has requested
reimbursement for attorneys' fees that were not
reasonably expended on the litigation. Therefore,
plaintiff's fees for preparation of the Opening Brief
should be reduced by 5 hours, for a total number of hours of
31.1[total 36.9 hours on opening brief Dkt. 22-3 page
requests $7, 239.00 in total fees for the underlying
litigation. Although the 3.1 paralegal hours reasonably were
expended ($310), the 36.1 attorney hours were not reasonably
expended. Plaintiff's request for attorneys' fees
representing attorney work for $7, 549, should be reduced by
5 hours ($983.95) to $6, 565.05.
does not object to plaintiff's request for $5.18 in
expenses, which shall be granted. Plaintiff also requests
additional hours for the time incurred defending the fee
petition, which is denied because defendant's dispute
with the fee was meritorious.
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 $6, 565.05 in
attorneys' fees and $5.18 for expenses.
and PROCEDURAL HISTORY
November 21, 2017, this Court issued an Order reversing and
remanding this matter for further consideration by the
Administration (see Dkt. 19).
Court found that the ALJ erred by failing to discuss the
significant, probative evidence provided by a reviewing
doctor, Dr. Phyllis N. Sanchez, Ph.D., who issued opinions
directly relevant to the important findings providing the
basis for the ALJ's ultimate decision regarding
disability. Dkt. 19. This matter was reversed pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 405(g) for further consideration due to the
harmful error in the evaluation of such evidence (see
Id. at 4-8).
plaintiff filed a motion for EAJA attorneys' fees, to
which defendant objected (see Dkt. 22). Defendant
contends that the amount of hours incurred in this matter is
unreasonable (Dkt. 24). Plaintiff filed a reply (see
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 ...