United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville
STEPHANIE N. OWNBY, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
C. CLIFFORD SHIRLEY, Jr., Magistrate Judge.
This case is before the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Rule 72(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, for a report and recommendation regarding disposition of Plaintiff's Application for Attorney Fees Under the Equal Access to Justice Act ("EAJA"). [Doc. 24]; see 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d). Plaintiff moves the Court to enter an Order awarding attorney fees in the amount of $5, 125.95 and expenses of $18.93 under the EAJA. The Commissioner filed an objection [Doc. 25] to Plaintiff's request for attorney fees, and the Plaintiff filed a Response [Doc. 27].
On May 9, 2014, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum in Support [Docs. 18 & 19]. On June 26, 2014, the Commissioner filed a Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum in Support [Docs. 20 & 21]. United States Chief District Judge Thomas A. Varlan entered an Order [Doc. 23] on January 14, 2015, granting Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment.
II. POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES
Plaintiff requests a fee award in the amount of $5, 125.95 for 28.55 hours of work performed. Plaintiff requests 6.21 hours billed in 2013 at a rate of $177 per hour, 20.7 hours billed in 2014 at a rate of $180 per hour, and 1.75 hours billed in 2015 at a rate of $183 per hour. [Doc. 27].
The Commissioner objects [Doc. 25] to the number of hours and hourly rate requested. Specifically, the Commissioner argues that Plaintiff's counsel requests payment for certain activities not compensable under the EAJA and that Plaintiff has failed to provide proof that the current market rate supports a higher hourly attorney fee. [Id. at 2]. Further, the Commissioner contends that the fee agreement signed by Plaintiff and her counsel violates the Anti-Assignment Act and that any award of fees should be awarded to the Plaintiff. Finally, the Commissioner requests the Court to clarify that an award of $18.93 for postage is to be classified as expenses, as opposed to costs.
Now before the Court is Plaintiff's request for attorney's fees under the EAJA. Four conditions must be met before fees will be awarded under the EAJA:
1. Plaintiff must be a prevailing party;
2. The Commissioner's position must be without substantial justification;
3. No special circumstances warranting denial of fees may exist; and
4. The application for attorney fees must be filed within 30 days of the final judgment in the action.
See 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1). The Court will first address whether all four conditions are met for an EAJA award, and then analyze whether the requested EAJA award is reasonable.
A. Plaintiff is the Prevailing Party
In this case, Plaintiff obtained a "sentence four" remand, which, for purposes of EAJA fees, renders her a "prevailing party." See Melkonyan v. Sullivan, 501 U.S. 89 (1991).
Thus, the Court finds the first condition for granting fees under ...