United States District Court, D. Maine
ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR ATTORNEY'S
LEVY, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
a favorable judgment after remand to the Social Security
Agency, Tammy Miller seeks attorney's fees and costs
pursuant to the Equal Access to Justice Act
(“EAJA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2412. ECF No. 18. The
motion is opposed by the defendant, the Acting Commissioner
of Social Security (the “Commissioner”).
EAJA allows the reimbursement to the prevailing party of
“fees and other expenses” incurred in prosecuting
or defending a suit against the United States. 28 U.S.C.A.
§ 2412(d)(1)(A) (2017). The moving party bears the
burden of establishing the reasonableness of their fee
request. Mason v. Maine Dep't of Corr., 387
F.Supp.2d 57, 60 (D. Me. 2005). Under the so-called lodestar
methodology, I must determine whether the amount of time
spent on the case and the requested hourly rate are
reasonable, and then multiply those factors together to come
up with a reasonable fee amount, which may be adjusted if I
determine that the fee application contains unreasonable and
unproductive expenditures of time. Haskell v. Soc. Sec.
Admin. Comm'r, 2012 WL 1463300, at *1 (D. Me. Apr.
fee request is accompanied by an itemization of the time
spent by Plaintiff's counsel on this case and an
affidavit in support of the fee application. Miller seeks
compensation for a total of 44.7 hours, comprising 25.9 hours
of attorney time and 18.8 hours of paralegal time. [ECF No.
18-1 at 2.] As this Court recognized in ruling on a similar
fee application in Dowell v. Colvin, 2015 U.S. Dist.
LEXIS 1128 (D. Me. Jan. 5, 2015), a “typical”
Social Security case of this type requires approximately 30
hours of work on the part of the attorney. Id. at
*11. The 44.7 hours claimed in the instant motion exceeds
that range. That fact, combined with the Commissioner's
objection which sets forth a reasoned basis for an award
based on no more than a total of 27.1 hours of combined
attorney and paralegal time, leads me to conclude that
“enhanced scrutiny” of the itemized statement is
warranted. See Id. at *12.
The Number of Hours
itemized time record submitted with Miller's fee
application reflects that Plaintiff's counsel spent 25.9
hours of time working on the case, including 22.1 hours
reviewing and revising a paralegal's draft of the
statement of errors (ECF No. 13) and 3.8 hours drafting the
complaint and summons, preparing and reviewing
correspondence, reviewing court orders, and drafting
Miller's EAJA motion and affidavit. The itemized time
record also reflects that Plaintiff's counsel's
paralegal spent 18.8 hours working on the case, including
11.5 hours performing research for and drafting the statement
of errors, 6.5 hours reviewing the case file, and 0.8 hours
preparing the EAJA application.
counsel and his staff devoted 40.1 of the claimed 44.7 hours
expended in the case on the statement of errors and review of
the case file. I conclude that this is an excessive amount of
time, and draw upon the reasoning in Staples v.
Berryhill, where the court concluded that 32.85 hours
for preparation of the statement of errors was excessive
where counsel had represented the plaintiff for a period of
years and was familiar with the factual and legal issues of
the case; where the record at issue totaled 931 pages; and
where the plaintiff had raised mere “garden-variety
issues.” Staples, 2017 WL 2570890, at *3 (D.
Me. June 13, 2017). Likewise, in this case, Plaintiff's
counsel has represented Miller in this matter since 2012, ECF
No. 9-4 at 7, and therefore was already familiar with the
underlying issues. Moreover, the 1, 030-page record in this
case is comparable in scope to the record in
Staples. See ECF No. 9; Staples,
2017 WL 2570890, at *3. Finally, Miller does not dispute the
Commissioner's argument that the case did not present any
novel or especially complex issues. See ECF No. 19
at 3; ECF No. 20.
preparation of the statement of errors and review of the case
file, specifically, could have been reasonably accomplished
in approximately two-thirds of the time and, therefore,
warrants a deduction of 13 hours. Of the 22.1 attorney hours
expended on these tasks, I deduct 7 hours; of the 18
paralegal hours expended on these tasks, I deduct 6 hours.
This yields a fee award based on a total of 31.7 hours of
attorney and paralegal time, which is comparable to other fee
awards approved by this court. See Dowell, 2015 U.S.
Dist. LEXIS 1128, at *14-15 (34.8 hours of attorney time
requests an hourly rate of $192.39 per hour for attorney time
and $90.00 per hour for paralegal time. Both rates are
consistent with the rates typically awarded in these cases.
See Dowell, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1128, at *15;
see also Staples, 2017 WL 2570890, at *6 (approving
rate of $90 for paralegal time).
on the foregoing, I find that Miller is eligible for an award
of attorney's fees, and that, based upon Plaintiff's
counsel's itemized time record, a reasonable amount of
compensable time is 31.7 hours, rather than the 44.7 hours
requested. I also find that the hourly rates for attorney
time and paralegal time are reasonable. Plaintiff's
motion (ECF No. 18) is therefore GRANTED,
and the Plaintiff is awarded attorney's fees and costs as
follows: $3, 636.17 for attorney time ($192.39 x 18.9 hours)
and $1, 152.00 for paralegal time ($90.00 x 12.8 hours) for a
total award of $4, 788.17.