United States District Court, E.D. California
F. BRENNAN 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”). ECF No. 22.
brought this action seeking judicial review of a final
administrative decision denying plaintiff’s
applications for Supplemental Security Income under Title XVI
of the Social Security Act. On March 29, 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. ECF No. 20.
3, 2016, plaintiff filed the pending motion for
attorney’s fees. ECF No. 22. Plaintiff’s motion seeks
an award of $3, 940.46, based on 17.3 hours of attorney time,
5 hours of paralegal time, and $14.10 in costs.
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 and that
plaintiff’s net worth did not exceed two million
dollars when this action was filed. See ECF No. 22
at 1-2. Moreover, the court finds that the government’s
position was not substantially justified. See Garrison v.
Colvin, 759 F.3d 995, 1012-13 (9th Cir. 2014) (“an
ALJ errs when he rejects a medical opinion or assigns it
little weight while doing nothing more than ignoring it,
asserting without explanation that another medical opinion is
more persuasive, or criticizing it with boilerplate language
that fails to offer a substantive basis for his
conclusion”); 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
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 resulting in an order remanding this action for
further proceedings. After carefully reviewing the record and
the pending motion, the court finds the claimed 17.3 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 number of 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 5 hours of paralegal time
at a rate of $125 per hour. ECF No. 22 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, “[a]ccording to the court’s own
research, ‘the paralegal rate favored in this district
is $75 per hour.’” Pehle v. Dufour, No.
2:06-cv-1889 EFB, 2014 WL 546115, at *7 (E.D. Cal. Feb. 11,
2014) (quoting Friedman v. California State Employees
Association, No. CIV. 2:00-101 WBS DAD, 2010 WL 2880148,
at *4 (E.D. Ca. July 21, 2010)); see also Kalani v.
Statewide Petroleum, Inc., No. 2:13-CV-2287 KJM AC, 2014
WL 4230920, at *6 (E.D. Cal. Aug. 25, 2014) (“courts in
Sacramento have repeatedly determined in recent years that
the prevailing hourly paralegal rate is $75”).
Plaintiff, therefore, will be awarded compensation for 5
hours of paralegal time at a rate of $75 per hour.
plaintiff requests that the EAJA fee award be made payable to
plaintiff’s counsel pursuant to a fee agreement signed
by plaintiff. ECF No. 22 at 10. 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 owed to the United States by the claimant.
Astrue v. Ratliff, 560 U.S. 586, 592-93 (2010).
to the decision in Ratliff, some courts have ordered
payment of the award of EAJA fees directly to
plaintiff’s counsel pursuant to plaintiff’s
assignment of EAJA fees, provided that the plaintiff has no
debt that requires offset. See Blackwell v. Astrue,
No. CIV 08-1454 EFB, 2011 WL 1077765, at *5 (E.D. Cal. Mar.
21, 2011); Dorrell v. Astrue, No. CIV 09-0112 EFB,
2011 WL 976484, at *2-3 (E.D. Cal. Mar. 17, 2011);
Calderon v. Astrue, No. 1:08-cv-01015 GSA, 2010 WL
4295583, at *8 (E.D. Cal. Oct. 22, 2010); Castaneda v.
Astrue, No. EDCV 09-1850-OP, 2010 WL 2850778, at *3
(C.D. Cal. July 20, 2010). Similarly, in recently submitted
stipulations and proposed orders for the award of attorney
fees under the EAJA, the parties have stipulated that, if
plaintiff does not owe a federal debt, the government will
consider the ...