United States District Court, D. Maine
RECOMMENDED DECISION ON APPLICATION FOR ATTORNEY
C. NIVISON, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Lawrence Tyrrell seeks to recover attorney fees and expenses
pursuant to the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), 28 U.S.C.
§ 2412, following a successful appeal from the denial of
his application for benefits under the Social Security Act.
Plaintiff requests an award of $3, 251.77. (EAJA Application,
ECF No. 24; Ex. A, ECF No. 24-1.) Defendant contends the
award should be reduced because Plaintiff's requested
rate for paralegal time is greater than the standard rate in
this District and because Plaintiff is not entitled to
recover for all of the claimed attorney time.
(Defendant's Opposition, ECF No. 25.)
a review of the record and after consideration of the
parties' arguments, I recommend the Court grant the
application in the amount of $3, 229.77.
EAJA provides, in relevant part, that a prevailing party
should receive a fee-shifting award against the United
States, unless the position of the United States was
“substantially justified” or “special
circumstances make an award unjust.” 28 U.S.C. §
2412(d)(1)(A); Schock v. United States, 254 F.3d 1,
5 (1st Cir. 2001).
calculation of an EAJA fee award is ordinarily based on the
loadstar method. The court determines the number of hours
reasonably expended on the matter and multiplies that figure
by a reasonable hourly rate. This analysis allows adjustments
to be made for unreasonable and unproductive attorney time,
and for unreasonable hourly rates. A fee-shifting award under
the EAJA is also appropriately reduced to account for the
prevailing party's relative degree of success. A
fee-shifting award should not compensate attorney effort that
was unsuccessful in demonstrating unreasonable government
action. McDonald v. Sec'y of HHS, 884 F.2d 1468,
1478 - 79 (1st Cir. 1989).
November 13, 2017, the Court vacated Defendant's decision
on Plaintiff's application for disability insurance
benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, and
remanded for further administrative proceedings. (Judgment,
ECF No. 23.) Defendant does not dispute that an award is
appropriate in this case, nor does Defendant argue that the
award should be reduced to account for less than complete
success. Instead, Defendant argues the requested paralegal
hourly rate is unreasonable, and that some of the claimed
attorney time is not recoverable.
argues that Plaintiff's requested rate of $110 per hour
for paralegal time should be reduced to $90, because $90 is
the established rate in this District. Citing this
Court's recent decision in Pelletier v. SSA
Comm'r, 1:17-cv-0073-NT (D. Me., Dec. 20, 2017),
Plaintiff concedes that she has not demonstrated that an
hourly rate in excess of $90 is recoverable. (Reply at 1.)
The 1.1 hours of paralegal time claimed by Plaintiff,
therefore, shall be awarded at the rate of $90 per hour. The
adjustment reduces the amount claimed by $22.
argues the Court should deduct 1.8 hours of attorney time on
tasks Defendant contends are not required to be performed by
an attorney, or at the full attorney rate. (Opposition at 3 -
5.) Defendant challenges the nine-tenths of an hour of
attorney time on December 20, 2016, for the drafting and
filing of the complaint and summons, the preparation of a
letter and motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, and
the review of the Court's order granting the motion.
Defendant also challenges nine separate other entries, each
for one-tenth of an hour at the attorney rate, for tasks such
as “receipt and review of signed forms from client,
” letter preparation, review of court emails, and
review of the judgment and order. Defendant, relying on this
Court's decisions in Pelletier v. SSA
Comm'r, No. 1:10-cv-00438-DBH, 2011 WL 5545658, at
*2, and Haskell v. SSA Comm'r, No.
1:11-cv-00289-GZS, 2012 WL 1463300, at *2, contends that the
tasks do not require the attorney's time at the full
argument is unpersuasive. Neither Pelletier nor
Haskell established a rule in this District that an
attorney's time to review notices or orders from the
court, to prepare a complaint, to prepare a motion for leave
to proceed in forma pauperis, or to review other case-related
documents was not compensable. Indeed, counsel is required to
remain aware of the developments in a case. Rather, the cases
reinforce the Court's obligation to scrutinize the amount
of time devoted to various tasks to determine whether the
tasks can more appropriately be accomplished in less time by
a person at a lower hourly rate. Here, the challenged time
devoted by counsel to the tasks is modest and reflects tasks
that are consistent with counsel's obligations to his
client and the court. The requested attorney time is thus not
reasons set forth above, I recommend the Court grant
Plaintiff's EAJA ...