United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division
STACY G. D., Plaintiff,
ANDREW SAUL, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
CARRILLO RAMIREZ UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
the Court for determination is Plaintiff’s Motion
for Fees Under the Equal Access to Justice Act, 28 U.S.C.
§ 2412, filed June 18, 2019. (doc. 24.) Based on
the relevant findings, evidence, and applicable law, the
application is GRANTED, and the plaintiff is
awarded $8, 492.03 in attorney’s fees, expenses, and
January 26, 2018, Stacy G. D. (Plaintiff) filed a complaint
seeking judicial review of a final decision by the
Commissioner of Social Security (Commissioner) that denied her
claim for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the
Social Security Act. (doc. 1.) On March 23, 2017, the
Commissioner’s decision was reversed, and the case was
remanded for further proceedings. (docs. 20; 21.) Plaintiff
subsequently moved for an award of attorney’s fees,
expenses, and costs under the Equal Access to Justice Act, 28
U.S.C. § 2412. (doc. 24.) The Commissioner does not
object to the hourly rate but objects to the number of hours
claimed. (doc. 26.)
the EAJA, a court must award attorney’s fees and
expenses if (1) the claimant is the “prevailing
party”; (2) the Government’s position was
not “substantially justified”; and (3) there are
no special circumstances that make an award unjust.
Murkeldove v. Astrue, 635 F.3d 784, 790 (5th Cir.
2011) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(A)). The
attorney’s fees awarded under the EAJA must be
reasonable, however. See 28 U.S.C. § 2412(b).
“Because EAJA is a partial waiver of sovereign
immunity, it must be strictly construed in the
government’s favor.” Tex. Food Indus.
Ass’n v. USDA, 81 F.3d 578, 580 (5th Cir. 1996)
(citation omitted). “In determining the reasonableness
of such fees, [the Fifth Circuit] has adopted the
12–factor ‘lodestar’ test enunciated in
Johnson v. Georgia Highway Exp., Inc., 488 F.2d 714,
717 (5th Cir. 1974).” It is, however, “not
necessary for a district court to examine each of the factors
independently if it is apparent that the court has arrived at
a just compensation based upon appropriate standards.
Sanders v. Barnhart, No. 04-10600, 2005 WL 2285403,
at *2 (5th Cir. Sept. 19, 2005) (per curiam). The claimant
has the burden of demonstrating that the hours claimed were
reasonably expended on the prevailing claim. Von
Clark v. Butler, 916 F.2d 255, 259 (5th Cir.
1990) (noting that the burden “does not shift to the
opposing party merely because that party does not show that
the hours are unreasonable or that it did not make specific
objections to the hours claimed”).
as the prevailing party, Plaintiff has requested a total of
$8, 492.03 in attorney’s fees and expenses for 31.61
hours of attorney work and 12.28 hours of paralegal work for
litigating this appeal in federal court, 3.62 hours of
attorney work for preparing and filing the EAJA application,
$21.35 in postage expenses for service of process and
case-related correspondence, and $419.90 in costs for copies
and the initial filing fee. (docs. 24-1 at 5-7; 24-2.)
Counsel has submitted an itemized billing statement detailing
the time that was devoted to the case. (doc. 24-2.) The
Commissioner does not dispute Plaintiff’s entitlement
to attorney’s fees, expenses, and costs or the hourly
rates requested,  but objects to the number of hours. (doc.
26 at 1-2.)
Commissioner claims that 31.61 hours for litigating
Plaintiff’s case in federal court is unreasonable and
requests a reduction to 25.61 hours. (doc. 26 at 4).
Work Performed on Plaintiff’s Brief
Commissioner initially objects that the total number of hours
worked on the initial brief, specifically the time entries
from May 22, June 6, June 7, and June 11, 2016, is
unreasonable because the case did not include any novel legal
arguments or uncommon factual issues, raised only a single
point of error, and “a great deal of its length
result[ed] from Plaintiff’s counsel summarizing various
medical records, rather than a detailed analysis and
synthesis of the law and facts.” (doc. 26 at 3.) He
claims that 17.44 attorney hours in connection with the
initial brief is unreasonable and requests a reduction to
11.44 attorney hours. (Id. at 2.)
billing records show that of the disputed 17.44 hours,
counsel spent 6.55 hours on May 22, 2016, reviewing and
annotating the transcript, summarizing the procedural and
medical history and case law for the brief, and researching
the disability ratings issue–including the new social
security regulations on those ratings and recent precedent
regarding the new standards. Counsel also spent 3.82 hours on
June 6, 2018, revising the case statement and comparing case
facts to similar Fifth Circuit cases, and 5 hours on June 7,
2018, drafting and revising the arguments section, making
multiple revisions for clarity, punctuation, spelling,
grammar, and citation, and drafting the table of authorities
and issue-presented section. Finally, he spent 2.07 hours on
June 11, 2016, reviewing the brief, making final revisions,
and filing the brief. (doc. 24-2 at 2.)
is well established that the most critical factor in
determining an award of attorney’s fees is the degree
of success obtained by the victorious plaintiff [ ].”
Northwinds Abatement, Inc. v. Empl’rs. Ins. of
Wausau, 258 F.3d 345, 354 (5th Cir. 2001) (internal
quotations omitted); see also Hensley, 461 U.S. at
440 (“[T]he extent of a plaintiff’s success is a
crucial factor in determining the proper amount of an award
of attorney’s fees under” the EAJA.).
Plaintiff’s successful brief was 15 pages long and
presented a comprehensive explanation of her physical
ailments and symptoms, and made a thorough presentation of
her legal arguments on appeal. (See doc. 17.) The
disputed hours consist of 6.55 hours reviewing a record of
more than 1, 500 pages and summarizing the relevant aspects
of Plaintiff’s medical history for the brief. See
Harris v. Colvin, No. 3:11-CV-1089-M-BH, 2013 WL
2896880, at *3 (N.D. Tex. June 13, 2013) (finding 6.33 hours
counsel spent “identifying important procedural
information and medical facts, and condensing them into a
chronological, 9–page summary” was reasonable and
did not warrant reduction); Leroux v. Astrue, No.
3-10-CV-2634-M, 2012 WL 6757772, at *1 (N.D. Tex. Oct. 26,
2012) (finding that 15.08 hours were reasonable for counsel,
who had represented the claimant at the administrative level,
to review the record, “locate substantive evidence for
arguments and citations to that evidence, ” and
summarize that evidence), adopted by 2013 WL 28577
(N.D. Tex. Jan. 2, 2013); see also Campbell v.
Berryhill, No. 3:15-CV-3913-N-BH, 2017 WL 4404459, at *3
(N.D. Tex. Sept. 1, 2017) (finding that 43 hours working on
the initial brief was reasonable when there was an
administrative record of 1, 662 pages), adopted by
2017 WL 4351370 (N.D. Tex. Sept. 29, 2017). ...