The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sheila K. Oberto United States Magistrate Judge
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS THAT PLAINTIFF'S
APPLICATION FOR AN AWARD OF ATTORNEY'S
FEES PURSUANT TO THE EQUAL ACCESS TO JUSTICE ACT BE
GRANTED (Doc. 23)OBJECTIONS DUE: 14 DAYS
Plaintiff Gwendolyn Green ("Plaintiff") filed a complaint on May 14, 2010, seeking reversal of the Administrative Law Judge's ("ALJ") decision denying Plaintiff's application for Social Security disability benefits. (Doc. 1.) On September 29, 2011, the Court issued an order reversing the ALJ's decision and entered judgment in Plaintiff's favor. (Docs. 21, 22.)
On December 28, 2011, Plaintiff filed an application for an award of fees and expenses pursuant to the Equal Access to Justice Act ("EAJA") in the amount of $7,207.70. (Doc. 23.) The Commissioner did not file a brief in opposition to Plaintiff's application. For the reasons set forth below, the Court RECOMMENDS that Plaintiff's application for EAJA fees be GRANTED in the amount of $6006.99.
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(A), claimants who successfully challenge an agency decision in a civil action are entitled to reasonable fees and other expenses:
[A] court shall award to a prevailing party other than the United States fees and other expenses . . . 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.
Any application for an award of EAJA fees and other expenses must be made within thirty days of final judgment in the action and "must include an itemized statement from any attorney representing or appearing in behalf of the party stating the actual time expended and the rate at which fees and other expenses were computed." 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(B). The party submitting the application is also required to allege that the position of the United States was not substantially justified. Id. Further, the party applying for an award of EAJA fees must have an individual net worth not greater than $2,000,000 at the time the civil action was filed. Id. § 2412(d)(2)(B).
B. Plaintiff is Entitled to An Award of EAJA Fees and Other Expenses
As an initial matter, Plaintiff has met the statutory criteria to be eligible for an EAJA award of fees and other expenses. A remand pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) has been found to constitute a final, appealable judgment. Shalala v. Schaefer, 509 U.S. 292, 296-302 (1993). A party who obtains a sentence four remand in a social security appeal is a prevailing party for purposes of the EAJA. Schaefer, 509 U.S. at 302. Here, Plaintiff asserts that she was a prevailing party for purposes of the appeal because the Court entered judgment in Plaintiff's favor. Further, Plaintiff asserts that her net worth as an individual was not more than $2,000,000 at the time the civil action was filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(D)(2)(B). (Doc. 23-1, 2:20-22.) Plaintiff has asserted that the Commissioner's position was not substantially justified. (Doc. 23-1, 3:15-4:20.) As such, Plaintiff is entitled to an award of her reasonable attorney's fees and expenses.
C. Reasonableness of the Fees
The Court must determine what constitutes a reasonable award of attorneys' fees. See 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(2)(A); Gates v. Deukmejian, 987 F.2d 1392, 1401 (9th Cir. 1992) (district court has an independent duty to review plaintiff's fee request to determine its reasonableness). "The most useful starting point for determining the amount of a reasonable fee is the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate." Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983); Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. 886, 897 (1984). "The [Court] must determine not just the actual hours expended by counsel, but which of those hours were reasonably expended in the litigation." Ramos v. Lamm, 713 F.2d 546, 553 (10th Cir. 1983). "'Hours that are not properly billed to one's client are not properly billed to one's adversary pursuant to statutory authority.'" Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434 (quoting Copeland v. Marshall, 641 F.2d 880, 891 (D.C. Cir. 1980) (en banc)). The applicant bears the burden of demonstrating the reasonableness of the fee request. Blum, 465 U.S. at 897.
Plaintiff requests $175.06 per hour for work performed by her counsel in 2010 and $179.51 per hour for work performed in 2011, which are the applicable statutory maximum hourly rates under EAJA for attorney work performed in 2010 and 2011, adjusted for increases in the cost of living, as published by the Ninth Circuit on its website pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(2)(A), Thangaraja v. Gonzales, 428 F.3d 870, 876-77 (9th Cir. 2005), and Ninth Circuit Rule 39-1.6. These rates are unopposed and have been considered reasonable in other social security cases in this district, see, e.g., Roberts v. Astrue, No. ...