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McClellan v. Astrue

February 13, 2009

JULIA MCCLELLAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John M. Dixon United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER REGARDING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR ATTORNEY'S FEES (Documents 22 and 23)

This matter is before the Court on a petition for attorney's fees and costs under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d), filed on September 12, 2007, by Plaintiff's attorney, Henry Reynolds.

The matter is currently before the Court on the parties' briefs, which were submitted, without oral argument, to the Honorable John M. Dixon, Jr., United States Magistrate Judge.*fn1

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff commenced the instant action on January 10, 2005. On June 25, 2007, the Court granted the Commissioner's motion to remand the action pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

On September 12, 2007, the Plaintiff filed a motion requesting attorney's fees pursuant to the EAJA. Subsequently, Mr. Henry Reynolds, Plaintiff's counsel, filed a first amended motion on November 29, 2007, requesting $8,214.38 in attorney's fees pursuant to the EAJA. The Commissioner opposed the motion on December 13, 2007, arguing that the request was unreasonable.

DISCUSSION

A. Reasonableness of Request

Under the EAJA, a prevailing party will be awarded reasonable attorney fees, unless the government demonstrates that its position in the litigation was "substantially justified," or that "special circumstances make an award unjust." 28 U.S.C. § 2412 (d)(1)(A). An award of attorney fees must be reasonable. Sorenson v. Mink, 239 F.3d 1140, 1145 (9th Cir. 2001). "[E]xcessive, redundant, or otherwise unnecessary" hours should be excluded from a fee award, and charges that are not properly billable to a client are not properly billable to the government. Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 434 (1983).

In his application, Mr. Reynolds requests attorney's fees in the amount of $8,214.38 (for 52.90 hours*fn2 ). In support of his request, he attaches an itemization of time spent from January 25, 2007, through April 3, 2008 ("Schedule of Hours").

The Commissioner does not dispute that Mr. Reynolds is entitled to fees as the prevailing party. However, the Commissioner points to specific entries and contends that they are improper requests and/or excessive. The Commissioner also generally argues that the total request is unreasonable given that the Commissioner was forced to file a motion to remand because the parties could not agree.

1. Motion for Summary Judgment

In seeking a fee reduction, the Commissioner first argues that Mr. Reynolds' expenditure of 31.5 hours in drafting and editing the summary judgment motion is an excessive amount of time for experienced counsel.

Mr. Reynolds supports his request by explaining that he was not counsel at the administrative level and therefore needed additional hours to ...


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