United States District Court, E.D. California
CAROLYN K. DELANEY, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter is before the court on plaintiff’s unopposed
motion for attorney’s fees pursuant to the Equal Access
to Justice Act (“EAJA”).
brought this action seeking judicial review of a final
administrative decision denying his application for
Supplemental Security Income under Title XVI of the Social
Security Act. On March 25, 2016, following the filing of a
motion for summary judgment by plaintiff and a cross-motion
for summary judgment by defendant, the court granted
plaintiff’s motion, reversed the decision of the
Commissioner and remanded this action for further
proceedings. (Dkt. No. 22.)
1, 2016, plaintiff filed this motion for attorney’s
fees. (Dkt. No. 24.) Plaintiff’s motion seeks an award
of $9, 006.41 in attorney’s fees as well as $15.39 in
costs. Despite being served with a copy of the motion,
defendant has not filed an opposition to plaintiff’s
EAJA provides that “a court shall award to a prevailing
party . . . fees and other expenses . . . incurred by that
party in any civil action . . . brought by or against the
United States . . . 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); see also Gisbrecht v.
Barnhart, 535 U.S. 789, 796 (2002). “It is the
government’s burden to show that its position was
substantially justified or that special circumstances exist
to make an award unjust.” Gutierrez v.
Barnhart, 274 F.3d 1255, 1258 (9th Cir. 2001)
“party” under the EAJA is defined as including
“an individual whose net worth did not exceed $2, 000,
000 at the time the civil action was filed[.]” 28
U.S.C. § 2412(d)(2)(B)(i). The term “fees and
other expenses” includes “reasonable attorney
fees.” 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(2)(A). “The
statute explicitly permits the court, in its discretion, to
reduce the amount awarded to the prevailing party to the
extent that the party ‘unduly and unreasonably
protracted’ the final resolution of the case.”
Atkins v. Apfel, 154 F.3d 986, 987 (9th Cir. 1998)
(citing 28 U.S.C. §§ 2412(d)(1)(C) &
who obtains a remand in a Social Security case is a
prevailing party for purposes of the EAJA. Shalala v.
Schaefer, 509 U.S. 292, 300-01 (1993) (“No holding
of this Court has ever denied prevailing-party status . . .
to a plaintiff who won a remand order pursuant to sentence
four of § 405(g) . . ., which terminates the litigation
with victory for the plaintiff.”) . “An applicant
for disability benefits becomes a prevailing party for the
purposes of the EAJA if the denial of her benefits is
reversed and remanded regardless of whether disability
benefits ultimately are awarded.” Gutierrez,
274 F.3d at 1257.
the court finds that plaintiff is the prevailing party, that
plaintiff did not unduly delay this litigation, that his net
worth did not exceed two million dollars when this action was
filed (Dkt. No. 3), and that the position of the government
was not substantially justified. See Meier v.
Colvin, 727 F.3d 867, 870 (9th Cir. 2013) (position of
the government “includes both the government’s
litigation position and the underlying agency action giving
rise to the civil action.”).
EAJA expressly provides for an award of
“reasonable” attorney fees. 28 U.S.C. §
2412(d)(2)A). Under the EAJA, hourly rates for attorney fees
have been capped at $125.00 since 1996, but district courts
are permitted to adjust the rate to compensate for an
increase in the cost of living. See 28 U.S.C. §
2412(d)(2)(A); Sorenson v. Mink, 239 F.3d 1140,
1147-49 (9th Cir. 2001); Atkins v. Apfel, 154 F.3d
986, 987 (9th Cir. 1998). Determining a reasonable fee
“‘requires more inquiry by a district court than
finding the product of reasonable hours times a reasonable
rate.’” Atkins, 154 F.3d at 988 (quoting
Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 434 (1983)
(internal citations omitted)). The district court must
consider “‘the relationship between the amount of
the fee awarded and the results obtained.’”
Id. at 989 (quoting Hensley, 461 U.S. at
plaintiff’s attorney successfully moved for summary
judgment and obtained a remand for further proceedings.
Plaintiff’s motion explains that, although counsel
actually expended 64.93 hours of attorney time, counsel is
only seeking compensation for 42.55 hours of attorney time.
(Dkt. No. 24 at 3.) After carefully reviewing the record and
the pending motion, the court finds the claimed 42.55 hours
to be a reasonable amount of attorney time to have expended
on this matter and declines to conduct a line-by-line
analysis of counsel’s billing entries. See,
e.g., Stewart v. Sullivan, 810 F.Supp. 1102,
1107 (D. Haw. 1993); Vallejo v. Astrue, No.
2:09-cv-03088 KJN, 2011 WL 4383636, at *4 (E.D. Cal. Sept.
20, 2011); Destefano v. Astrue, No. 05-CV-3534, 2008
WL 623197, *4 (E.D. N.Y. Mar. 4, 2008).
the 42.55 hours expended by plaintiff’s attorney is
well within the limit of what would be considered a
reasonable amount of time spent on this action when compared
to the time devoted to similar tasks by counsel in like
social security appeals coming before this court. See
Boulanger v. Astrue, No. CIV S-07-0849 DAD, 2011 WL
4971890, at *2 (E.D. Cal. Oct. 19, 2011) (finding 58 hours to
be a reasonable amount of time); Watkins v. Astrue,
No. CIV S-06- 1895 DAD, 2011 WL 4889190, at *2 (E.D. Cal.
Oct. 13, 2011) (finding 62 hours to be a reasonable amount of
time); Vallejo v. Astrue, No. 2:09-cv-03088 KJN,
2011 WL 4383636, at *5 (E.D. Cal. Sept. 20, 2011) (finding
62.1 hours to be a reasonable amount of time); Dean v.
Astrue, No. CIV S-07-0529 DAD, 2009 WL 800174, at *2
(E.D. Cal. Mar. 25, 2009) (finding 41 hours to be a
reasonable amount of time); see also Costa v.
Commissioner of Social Sec. Admin., 690 F.3d 1132, 1136
(9th Cir. 2012) (“Many district courts have noted that
twenty to forty hours is the range most often requested and
granted in social security cases.”); cf. Id.
at 1137 (“District courts may not apply de facto caps
limiting the number of hours attorneys can reasonably expend
on ‘routine’ social security cases.”).
motion also seeks compensation for 9.1 hours of paralegal
time at a rate of $100 per hour. (Dkt. No. 24 at 2.)
“[A] prevailing party that satisfies EAJA’s other
requirements may recover its paralegal fees from the
Government at prevailing market rates.” Richlin
Sec. Service Co. v. Chertoff, 553 U.S. 571, 590 (2008).
However, “purely clerical or secretarial tasks should
not be billed at a paralegal rate, regardless of who performs
them.” Missouri v. Jenkins, 491 U.S. 274, 288
review of the time sheet submitted by plaintiff reveals that
plaintiff seeks compensation for some tasks that are clerical
in nature, specifically the downloading, filing and mailing
of documents. See Tate v. Colvin, No. 1:11-cv-1643
SKO, 2013 WL 5773047, at *9 (E.D. Cal. Oct. 24, 2013)
(“Downloading and submitting documents to the Court is
a clerical task. Similarly, filing documents is a clerical
task, regardless of whether counsel has delegated the
authority to his paralegal to access his CM/ECF account and
electronically sign and submit documents.”). After
excluding such entries, plaintiff will be awarded 5.7 hours
of paralegal time.
plaintiff’s requests that the EAJA fee award be made
payable to plaintiff’s counsel pursuant to a fee
agreement signed by plaintiff. (Dkt. No. 24 at 4.) However,
an attorney fee award under the EAJA is payable to the
litigant and is therefore subject to a government offset to
satisfy any pre-existing debt ...