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Logan-Laracuente v. Astrue

February 27, 2009

BARBARA LOGAN-LARACUENTE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sandra M. Snyder United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S APPLICATION FOR ATTORNEY'S FEES (DOC. 27)

Plaintiff is represented by counsel and proceeded with an action in which the Court reviewed a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (Commissioner) and, by judgment entered on October 7, 2008, ordered the matter remanded pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. §405(g) for further administrative proceedings. The matter is before the Magistrate Judge because both parties have consented to the Magistrate's jurisdiction to conduct all proceedings, including ordering the entry of judgment.

I. Introduction

The matter is currently before the Court on Plaintiff's motion for attorney's fees and costs, filed on January 4, 2009, along with several declarations of counsel, itemizations of work performed, a copy of an assignment of fees from Plaintiff to counsel Ann M. Cerney, a memorandum of law, and a certificate of service. Defendant filed opposition to the motion on January 23, 2009. Plaintiff filed a reply on February 13, 2009, which included a supplemental declaration and legal argument responsive to Defendant's opposition.

Defendant's only contentions concern the reasonableness of the requested fees.

II. Analysis

A. Sufficiency of the Motion

With respect to fees awarded under the EAJA, 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(A) provides:

Except as otherwise specifically provided by statute, a court shall award to a prevailing party other than the United States fees and other expenses, in addition to any costs awarded pursuant to subsection (a), incurred by that party in any civil action (other than cases sounding in tort), including proceedings for judicial review of agency action, brought by or against the United States in any court having jurisdiction of that action, unless the court finds that the position of the United States was substantially justified or that special circumstances make an award unjust.

It appears that the petition was filed within thirty days of the judgment becoming final and thus is timely pursuant to § 2412(d)(1)(B). Melkonyan v. Sullivan, 501 U.S. 89, 94-96 (1991).

Further, the petition is adequate on its face because it meets the requirements of § 2412(d)(1)(B), which requires in addition to timely presentation that the petition 1) show a) that Plaintiff was the prevailing party, b) that Plaintiff was eligible to receive an award under the subsection, and c) the amount sought, including an itemized statement from any attorney or expert witness representing or appearing on behalf of the party stating the actual time expended and the rate at which fees and other expenses were computed; and 2) allege that the position of the United States was not substantially justified.

B. Prevailing Party and Substantial Justification

In its twenty-four page ruling on the complaint, this Court determined that the ALJ made findings that were in part inconsistent with even the opinions which the ALJ had credited, failed to address and state reasons concerning the treatment of inconsistent restrictions of a treating physician, and failed to state adequate reasons for selectively crediting and discrediting portions of the opinions of examining and non-examining consultants. The Court remanded the case with directions that the ALJ state reasons for his treatment of expert opinions and continue the sequential analysis to determine if Plaintiff could perform past relevant work or other work existing in sufficient quantity in the economy.

In short, Plaintiff's counsel identified multiple errors that had been made by the ALJ whose decision was reviewed by the Court, and Plaintiff prevailed on ...


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