United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division
ORDER ON JOINT MOTION TO AWARD EAJA FEES
J. Dinsmyre United States Magistrate Judge.
matter is before the Court on the parties' Joint Motion
to Award EAJA Fees [Dkt. 23]. The Court
GRANTS the motion for the reasons set forth
below. In light of this ruling, the Court DENIES AS MOOT
Plaintiff's Motion for Award of Attorney Fees [Dkt. 22].
September 19, 2018, Plaintiff filed her Complaint seeking
judicial review of the Commissioner's unfavorable finding
denying her application for disability benefits. The Court
entered judgment reversing the Commissioner's decision
and remanding the case for further proceedings on July 10,
2019. [Dkt. 21.] On October 8, 2019, Plaintiff timely filed a
motion with supporting documentation requesting an award of
attorney fees and expenses pursuant to the Equal Access to
Justice Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d) (“EAJA”).
[Dkt. 22.] The parties subsequently filed their joint motion
seeking an award of attorney fees in the amount of $2, 391.00
and costs in the amount of $400.00. [Dkt. 23.]
to the EAJA, a “court shall award to a prevailing party
other than the United States fees and other expenses . . .
incurred by that party in any civil action . . . brought by
or against the United States.” 28 U.S.C. §
2412(d)(1)(A). In order to succeed on a Petition for EAJA
fees, the movant must, within thirty days of final judgment
in the action, file her application (1) showing that she is a
“prevailing party, ” (2) provide the Court with
an itemized statement that represents the computation of the
fees requested, and (3) allege that the position taken by the
United States was “not substantially justified.”
28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(B). Additionally, the Court may,
in its discretion, reduce or deny the award of fees and
expenses if the prevailing party “engaged in conduct
which unduly and unreasonably protracted the final resolution
of the matter in controversy” during the course of the
proceedings. 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(C).
is no question that Plaintiff is a prevailing party in this
case. See Shalala v. Schaefer, 509 U.S. 292
(1993) (holding that Plaintiff whose complaint is remanded to
an administrative law judge for further consideration
qualifies as a “prevailing party” under Section
2412(d)(1)(B) of the EAJA). The Plaintiff has provided
appropriate documentation for her fee request and alleged
that the position of the Commissioner was not substantially
justified. Next, the Commissioner bears the burden of proving
that his pre-litigation conduct, including the ALJ's
decision itself, and his litigation position were
substantially justified. See Stewart v.
Astrue, 561 F.3d 679, 683 (7th Cir. 2009). As indicated
by the filing of the joint motion, the Commissioner has not
done so here. The Court also is not aware of any
“conduct which unduly and unreasonably protracted the
final resolution of the matter in controversy” by
Plaintiff or her counsel. Therefore, the Court will not
reduce or deny an award of fees or expenses on such grounds.
the Court must determine whether the amount of the fee award
sought by Plaintiff is reasonable pursuant to the terms of
the EAJA. As a threshold requirement, 28 U.S.C. §
2412(d)(1)(B) of the EAJA requires Plaintiff to submit
“an itemized statement from any attorney or expert
witness representing or appearing in [sic] behalf of the
party stating the actual time expended and the rate at which
fees and other expenses were computed.” Plaintiff has
done so. See [Dkt. 22-3]. Plaintiff's counsel
spent 8.6 hours on this case; their staff spent 8 hours.
Id. The Court finds the number of hours expended to
reasonable EAJA fee is calculated under the lodestar method
by multiplying a reasonable number of hours expended by a
reasonable hourly rate. Astrue v. Ratliff, 560 U.S.
586, 602 (2010). Although the hourly rate is statutorily
capped at $125.00 per hour, the language of the statute
permits the Court to allow for “an increase in the cost
of living” to arrive at a higher hourly rate. 28 U.S.C.
§ 2412(d)(2)(A). In order to prove that such an increase
is justified, the Seventh Circuit has held that “an
EAJA claimant may rely on a general and readily available
measure of inflation such as the Consumer Price Index, as
well as proof that the requested rate does not exceed the
prevailing market rate in the community for similar services
by lawyers of comparable skill and experience.”
Sprinkle v. Colvin, 777 F.3d 421, 423 (7th Cir.
2015). Reliance solely on a readily available measure of
inflation is not sufficient, as an inflation-adjusted rate
might result in a rate higher than the prevailing market rate
in the community for comparable legal services, creating a
windfall, which is to be avoided. Id. at 428-29.
sets out the appropriate calculation of the applicable hourly
rate permitted by the EAJA, taking into account the increase
in the cost of living, as set forth in the Consumer Price
Index-All Urban Consumers, since the statutory hourly rate
was set at $125 per hour in March 1996. See [Dkt. 22-5.] That
calculation arrives at a maximum statutory hourly rate of
$186.08 for 2015. Plaintiff has requested a rate of $185.00
per hour for her attorneys; the Court finds that this rate
does not exceed the prevailing market rate in the community
by lawyers of comparable skill and experience and is
consistent with the rate approved in other similar cases in
this district. The Plaintiff has requested an hourly rate of
$100 for the work of non-lawyer staff, which the Court also
finds to be reasonable.
reasons set forth above, the Court GRANTS
the parties' Joint Motion to Award EAJA Fees [Dkt. 23]
and awards fees in the amount of $2, 391.00 and costs in the
amount of $400.00, for a total award of $2, 791.00. An award
under the EAJA belongs to Plaintiff and not her attorney and
can be offset to satisfy any pre-existing debt that Plaintiff
owes the United States, Astrue v. Ratliff, 560 U.S.
586 (2010). However, if Defendant verifies that Plaintiff
does not owe a pre-existing debt to the government subject to
the offset, Defendant shall ...