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Baker v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, E.D. California

December 23, 2014

BRENDA DEE BAKER, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR ATTORNEY'S FEES ECF NO. 20

STANLEY A. BOONE, Magistrate Judge.

On October 14, 2014, Plaintiff Brenda Dee Baker ("Plaintiff") filed a motion for attorney fees and expenses under the Equal Access to Justice Act ("EAJA"). Plaintiff requests $5, 452.22 for fees and $104.32 in expenses. (ECF No. 20.) Defendant Commissioner of Social Security ("Defendant" or "Commissioner") filed an opposition on November 13, 2014. (ECF No. 21.) Plaintiff filed a reply on November 20, 2014. (ECF No. 22.)

For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies Plaintiff's motion.

I.

BACKGROUND[1]

Plaintiff applied for Disability Insurance benefits and Supplemental Security Income benefits on October 20, 2009. (AR 140-154.) Plaintiff's application was denied on April 13, 2010. (AR 73.) Plaintiff requested reconsideration of the denial on April 21, 2010. (AR 79.) Plaintiff's application was denied after reconsideration on September 20, 2010. (AR 81.) On September 30, 2010, Plaintiff requested a hearing. (AR 88.)

On September 12, 2011, a hearing took place before Administrative Law Judge Mary P. Parnow ("the ALJ"). (AR 39.) On November 11, 2011, the ALJ issued a written decision and found that Plaintiff was not disabled. (AR 16-32.) The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on June 25, 2013. (AR. 1.)

Plaintiff raised two general issues in this appeal. First, Plaintiff argued that the ALJ erred because the vocational expert's ("VE") testimony regarding the jobs Plaintiff could perform was inconsistent with the information in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles ("DOT") and the VE did not provide a reasonable explanation for the conflict. Second, Plaintiff argued that the jobs identified by the VE did not constitute a significant number of jobs existing in the national economy. The Court partially agreed with Plaintiff as to the first issue and agreed with Plaintiff as to the second issue.

With respect to the first issue, Plaintiff argued that the ALJ erred in determining that Plaintiff could perform work as a "Film Touch-Up Inspector, " a "Document Preparer, " and a "Surveillance Systems Monitor." The Court found that the ALJ did not err in determining that Plaintiff could work as a "Film Touch-Up Inspector, " but that the ALJ did err in determining that Plaintiff could work as a "Document Preparer" or as a "Surveillance Systems Monitor." The Court found that the ALJ erred by failing to elicit a reasonable explanation from the VE regarding the apparent conflict between the DOT's reasoning level for these two jobs and Plaintiff's limitations. Plaintiff was limited to only "maintain attention and concentration and to carry out simple job instructions" and was "unable to carry out an extensive variety of technical and/or complex instructions." The Court found that the ALJ erred in determining that there were a significant number of jobs in the national economy which Plaintiff could perform, after subtracting the number of "Document Preparer" and "Surveillance Systems Monitor" jobs in local and national economy.

II.

LEGAL STANDARDS FOR EAJA MOTIONS

A party that prevails against the United States in a civil action is entitled, in certain circumstances, to an award of attorney's fees, court costs, and other expenses under the EAJA. Flores v. Shalala, 49 F.3d 562, 566 (9th Cir. 1995). The Equal Access to Justice Act ("EAJA"), 28 U.S.C. ยง 2412(d), states, in pertinent part:

(d)(1)(A) 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.

The Court is required to provide a concise but clear explanation for the reasons for the fee award. Sorenson v. Mink, 239 F.3d 1140, 1145 (9th Cir. 2001). Hours that are inadequately documented and hours that were not ...


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