Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Miller v. Berryhill

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

July 2, 2019

WESLEY MILLER, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY BERRYHILL, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          ALETA A. TRAUGER JUDGE

         Before the court is the plaintiff's Motion for Attorney Fees and Costs under the Equal Access to Justice Act (Doc. No. 37), seeking an award of attorney's fees in the amount of $12, 864, representing 64 hours of attorney work at $201.00 per hour. In her Response (Doc. No. 38), the Commissioner does not oppose the request for fees or the hourly rate sought by plaintiff's counsel, but she insists that the amount sought is unreasonable and should be reduced to no more than $7, 500. (Doc. No. 38, at 1, 4.) In Reply, plaintiff's counsel maintains that the 64 hours he devoted to this matter is reasonable under all the circumstances. He also seeks an additional $864.30 to compensate him for 4.3 of the 8.6 hours spent preparing his Reply to the government's Response, for a total fee in the amount of $13, 728. (Doc. No. 39, at 8.)

         For the reasons set forth herein, the court will grant the motion and award fees in the amount requested in the motion itself, $12, 864.

         I. Procedural Background

         The plaintiff filed this action under to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration denying his application for Disability Insurance Benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act. The matter was referred to the magistrate judge to issue a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) as to the disposition of the case. The government answered the Complaint and filed the 947-page Administrative Record. (Doc. No. 11.) The plaintiff, after several requests for extension of the deadline as well as a Motion for Leave to File Excess Pages, filed his Motion for Judgment on the Administrative Record and a 48-page supporting brief. (Doc. Nos. 17, 17-2.)

         The magistrate judge summarized the plaintiff's assertions of error as follows:

(1) that the ALJ failed to properly weigh the opinions provided by various providers and non-examining consultants; (2) that the ALJ erred in finding that Plaintiff can perform past relevant work and other jobs in the national economy; and (3) that the ALJ failed to properly consider witness testimony.

(Doc. No. 22, at 3.) The magistrate judge rejected each of the plaintiff's contentions of error and found that the Commissioner's determination that the plaintiff was not disabled was supported by substantial evidence in the record. He therefore recommended that the plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the Administrative Record be denied and that the Commissioner's decision be affirmed. (Doc. No. 22.)

         The plaintiff filed detailed Objections to the R&R. (Doc. No. 26.) In light of those Objections, this court, in a lengthy Memorandum, found that the Commissioner's decision was not supported by substantial evidence. The court rejected the R&R, granted the plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the Administrative Record, and remanded the case to the Commissioner for the purpose of appropriately weighing the evidence in the record. (Doc. No. 34.)

         II. The Motion for Attorney Fees

         The plaintiff thereafter filed his timely and well support Motion for Attorney Fees, seeking to recover fees in the amount of $12, 864, representing 64 hours of attorney work at the rate of $201.00 per hour. In the motion, the plaintiff specifically states that (1) he is an eligible party under 28 U.S.C. § 2421(d)(2)(B); (2) he is a prevailing party; (3) the Commissioner's position was not substantially justified; (4) no special circumstances make the award unjust, id. § 2421(d)(1)(A); and (5) he seeks fees at a reasonable rate for a reasonable expenditure of time, id. § 2421(d)(2)(A). Counsel avers that has practiced law since 1981 and has represented over 1, 600 Social Security claimants over the course of more than 37 years. (Doc. No. 37-2, at 1.) He specifically attests that he did not include in his fee request compensation for time spent by his paralegal on the case or for his own time in conducting “routine administrative tasks such as requesting additional time to meet a filing deadline, responding to Defendant's request for additional time to meet a filing deadline, keeping [his] client apprised of the status of the case via email, receiving and reviewing orders of the court regarding filing deadlines, etc.” (Id. at 3.)

         The Commissioner does not oppose the plaintiff's request for attorney's fees under the EAJA or the hourly rate at which fees are sought. She contests only the number of hours worked for which the attorney seeks compensation, arguing that the amount of time spent on the case was not reasonable. The Commissioner posits that “[m]ost requests for fees are broadly within the 20-30 hour range” and that fee awards in Social Security cases in this district typically fall with this range. (Doc. No. 38, at 2.) She acknowledges that “[m]ore complicated cases can result in a higher fee award” (id.) but maintains that approximately 37 hours is reasonable in light of the facts of this case, which, multiplied by the plaintiff's counsel's requested hourly rate of $201, would yield a fee award of $7, 500 (id. at 4).

         In Reply, the plaintiff argues that (1) this case was very complicated; (2) the Administrative Record is nearly 1000 pages in length; (3) counsel obtained permission to file a brief well outside the court's normal page limitation, and the plaintiff's initial brief was very lengthy and detailed; (4) counsel was required to file Objections to the R&R; (5) “counsel spent the time necessary to adequately and comprehensively brief a complicated case with a large transcript, ” and the number of hours spent was reasonable in this case (Doc. No. 39, at 8); and (6) numerous recent cases within this district and elsewhere have found reasonable the hours spent and fees well in excess of those sought here, in cases with less complicated records that did not also require objections to an R&R.

         III. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.