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Pao Mee Xiong v. Michael J. Astrue

February 21, 2012

PAO MEE XIONG,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dennis L. Beck United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER REGARDING PETITION FOR FEES (Document 31)

This matter is before the Court on a petition for attorneys' fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d), filed on December 28, 2011, by Plaintiff Pao Mee Xiong ("Plaintiff"). Defendant filed an opposition on January 27, 2012, arguing that the fee request is unreasonable and should be reduced. Plaintiff filed a reply on February 10, 2012.

The matter is currently before the Court on the parties' briefs, which were submitted to the Honorable Dennis L. Beck, United States Magistrate Judge.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed the instant complaint challenging the denial of benefits on April 24, 2010. On August 2, 2011, the Court issued Findings and Recommendations that the action be remanded. The Findings and Recommendations were adopted on September 29, 2011, and the action was remanded for further proceedings.

The Court entered judgment in Plaintiff's favor on September 29, 2011.

By this motion, Plaintiff seeks a total of $11,038.66 for 61.5 hours of attorney time. In opposition, Defendant contends that the requested fees are unreasonable and suggests that the Court award between $5,349.68 and $6,169.49.

In her reply, Plaintiff requested an additional $1,805.90 for 10 hours of attorney time spent in preparation of the reply.

DISCUSSION

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). A court has wide latitude in determining the number of hours reasonably expended. Cunningham v. County of Los Angeles, 879 F.2d 481, 484 (9th Cir. 1988).

Plaintiff requests a total of $12,844.56 for attorney time spent in litigating this action. This breaks down to a total of 71.5 attorney hours billed at 2010, 2011 and 2012 rates. In support of her request, Plaintiff submits itemizations of time spent by (1) Mr. Wilborn, from March 28, 2010, through February 9, 2012; and (2) Ms. Bosavanh, from March 25, 2010, through February 10, 2012.

A. Ms. Bosavanh's Time

1. Duplicative Work

This Court has been presented with numerous EAJA fee requests from Ms. Bosavanh and Mr. Wilborn and is familiar with the roles each plays in representing the client. As the Court has previously noted, Mr. Wilborn performs a majority of the research and brief writing and the Government should not be forced to pay increased fees simply because Ms. Bosavanh has decided to employ another attorney to ...


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