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Stephens v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Bowling Green Division

February 14, 2018

ANNA FAYE STEPHENS PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          H. Brent Brennenstuhl United States Magistrate Judge

         BACKGROUND

         Before the Court is the motion of Plaintiff, Anna Faye Stephens, for an award of costs and attorney fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act (“EAJA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2412(a)(1) and (d)(1)(A) (DN 18). Defendant, Nancy A. Berryhill, Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”), has filed a response (DN 20), and Stephens has filed a reply (DN 21). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 73, the parties have consented to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge conducting all further proceedings in this case, including issuance of a memorandum opinion and entry of judgment, with direct review by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in the event an appeal is filed (DN 11). This matter is ripe for determination.

         The Commissioner acknowledges that an award of fees under § 2412(d) is appropriate but takes issue with the total number of hours claimed and the adjusted hourly rate requested (DN 20). Stephens argues that the total number of hours claimed and the adjusted hourly rate sought are reasonable in light of the circumstances (DN 18, 21). There is no dispute that Stephens is entitled to reimbursement of the $400.00 filing fee. For the reasons set forth below, Stephens' motion for attorney's fees is granted.

         FINDINGS OF FACT

         On December 22, 2016, Stephens filed a complaint seeking judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (DN 1). The Commissioner filed an answer and a copy of the administrative record (DN 9, 10). Stephens filed a fact and law summary with a supporting memorandum (DN 14, 14-1). Thereafter, the Commissioner filed a joint motion requesting the Court reverse the final decision of the Commissioner, enter judgment in favor of Stephens, and remand this case for further proceedings, pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (DN 15). The undersigned granted the joint motion, reversed the final decision of the Commissioner, and, pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), remanded the case to the Commissioner for further proceedings (DN 16, 17).

         On September 28, 2017, Stephens filed her motion for an award of attorney fees and costs (DN 18). In support of her motion, Stephens' attorney submitted a memorandum, an itemization of time, a copy of the contingent fee agreement and power of attorney, and proposed order (DN 18-1, 18-2, 18-3, 18-4).

         CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

         The EAJA allows the award of attorney fees and other expenses against the government provided that:

(1) The party seeking such fees is the “prevailing party” in a civil action brought by or against the United States;
(2) An application for such fees, including an itemized justification for the amount requested, is timely filed within thirty days of final judgment in the action;
(3) The position of the government is not substantially justified; and
(4) No special circumstances make an award unjust.

28 U.S.C. ยงยง 2412(d)(1)(A), (B). The absence of any of the above factors precludes an award of fees. 28 U.S.C. ...


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