United States District Court, C.D. California
WAYNE E. RAMIREZ, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR EAJA FEES AND COSTS
SHERI PYM, Magistrate Judge.
On May 31, 2013, plaintiff Wayne E. Ramirez filed a complaint in this court against defendant the Commission of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner"), seeking a review of a denial of a period of disability, disability insurance benefits ("DIB"), and supplemental security income ("SSI"). Plaintiff presented one issue, contending the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") erred in rejecting plaintiff's subjective symptom testimony when the ALJ assessed plaintiff's residual functional capacity ("RFC"). This court entered Judgment in plaintiff's favor on April 30, 2014, reversing the decision of the Commissioner denying plaintiff benefits, and remanding the matter for further administrative proceedings pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The court found the ALJ erred in that he failed to provide clear and convincing reasons supported by substantial evidence for discounting plaintiff's credibility.
On July 28, 2014, plaintiff filed a Petition for Attorney Fees, Costs, and Expenses Under the Equal Access to Justice Act ("EAJA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d) ("Motion"). Plaintiff is seeking a fee award in the amount of $3, 828.98 based on 18.1 hours of attorney time at rates of between $187.02 and $189.78 per hour, and 3.2 hours of paralegal time at a rate of $137.00 per hour.
On August 6, 2014, defendant filed an Opposition to the Motion. Defendant contends that plaintiff is not entitled to recover any EAJA fees because the Commissioner was substantially justified in her position. Defendant further contends that, if the court determines EAJA fees are appropriate, the fees sought should be reduced because the hours claimed for the work done are excessive.
The court finds that the Commissioner was not substantially justified in her position, and therefore EAJA fees are appropriate. The court further finds the fees sought by plaintiff are reasonable under the circumstances, with one slight modification. Hence, for the reasons discussed further below, the court awards EAJA fees of $3, 772.05.
A. Legal Standard
The EAJA provides in pertinent part:
Except as otherwise specifically provided by statute, 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.
28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(A). Thus, to award attorney's fees under the EAJA, the court must determine that: (1) the claimant was the prevailing party; (2) the government has failed to show that its position was "substantially justified" or that special circumstances make the award unjust; and (3) the requested fees and costs are reasonable. 28 U.S.C. §§ 2412(d)(1)(A), 2412(d)(2)(A).
There is no dispute here that plaintiff was the prevailing party. But the Commissioner contends that her position was substantially justified, and also ...