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Clinton Mcclintock v. Michael J. Astrue

March 22, 2011

CLINTON MCCLINTOCK,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Irma E. Gonzalez, Chief Judge United States District Court

ORDER GRANTING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S APPLICATION ACCESS TO JUSTICE ACT FOR FEES UNDER THE EQUAL

[Doc. No. 23]

Presently before the Court is an application for fees pursuant to the Equal Access to Justice Act ("EAJA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2412, brought by Plaintiff Clinton McClintock. Defendant opposes the application, arguing the requested fee is unreasonable. For the reasons stated herein, the Court GRANTS IN PART Plainitff's application for attorney fees.

BACKGROUND

On July 30, 2009, Plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court seeking review of Defendant's final administrative decision denying Plaintiff Social Security Supplemental Security Income Payments. (Doc. No. 1.) After Plaintiff filed his Motion for Summary Judgment, the parties filed a Joint Motion to Remand, which the Court granted. (Doc. Nos. 13, 19-20.) Plaintiff filed the present motion for attorney fees on January 12, 2011. (Doc. No. 23.) The Court vacated the hearing scheduled for February 22, 2011, taking the matter under submission pursuant to Local Civil Rule 7.1(d).

DISCUSSION

Pursuant to 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). Fees awarded pursuant to the EAJA must be reasonable. Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 434 (1983); see also Gates v. Deukmejian, 987 F.2d 1392, 1397 (9th Cir. 1992) ("The fee applicant bears the burden of documenting the appropriate hours expended in the litigation and must submit evidence in support of those hours worked."). The district court has discretion in determining the amount of the fee award, including "the reasonableness of the hours claimed by the prevailing party." Gates, 987 F.2d at 1398.

There is no dispute in this case as to whether Plaintiff was the prevailing party, whether the government's position in the litigation was "substantially justified," or whether "special circumstances make an award unjust." Defendant opposes Plaintiff's request for attorney fees based solely the reasonableness of Plaintiff's request. See generally Def.'s Opp. Defendant also maintains that the attorney fees are payable to Plaintiff, not his attorney. Id. at 7. Plaintiff has requested a total award of $6,295.96 for 36.43 hours of attorney work, along with $254.00 for 4.1 hours of paralegal work and postage. See Pl.'s Mot. Ex. 3. Defendant objects to the reasonableness of Plaintiff's request on several grounds, as discussed below.

1. Pre-Complaint Activity

Defendant argues that Plaintiff should not be compensated for work performed prior to filing a complaint in this Court. See Def.'s Opp. at 3 (arguing "the EAJA does not compensate for work performed before a civil action is filed") (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d), Melkonyan v. Sullivan, 501 U.S. 89, 97 (1991), and Mendenhall v. NTSB, 213 F.3d 464, 469 (9th Cir. 2000)).

However, neither the statute nor the cases Defendant cites stands for the proposition that the EAJA does not permit compensation for work performed before a civil action is filed. Mendenhall comes closest, but that case dealt with whether the EAJA permits compensation for work performed in administrative proceedings prior to the filing of a civil action, not for work performed in preparation for the filing of a civil action. See Mendenhall, 213 F.3d at 468-69.

Upon review, the Court concludes Plaintiff's request, as it relates to work performed in preparation for the filing of a civil action, is proper and reasonable.

2. Clerical Tasks

Defendant argues that Plaintiff's request includes 2.57 hours of clerical tasks that are not compensable under the EAJA. Def.'s Opp. at 4. Defendant objects to Plaintiff's request for time spent on service of process, certificates of service, and reviewing PACER documents regarding counsel's own filings and joint motions. Id. Defendant also objects to Plaintiff's request for $254 for 4.1 hours at $60 per hour for tasks ...


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