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Curtis v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

October 1, 2014

Willie Mae Curtis, Plaintiff,
Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.



This matter is before the court on Plaintiff's motion for attorney's fees (ECF No. 29.) Plaintiff initiated this action on December 4, 2013, pursuant to § 205(g) of the Social Security Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), to obtain judicial review of the final administrative determination of the Commissioner of Social Security denying Plaintiff's claim for Social Security Supplemental Security Income pursuant to Title XVI of the Social Security Act. Upon receipt of the transcript of the administrative proceedings, counsel for Plaintiff submitted a brief on his behalf on June 30, 2014. (ECF No. 21.) On August 11, 2014, Defendant filed a Motion to Remand. (ECF No. 24.) On August 21, 2014, the court granted Defendant's motion to remand (ECF No. 26), and judgment was entered reversing the decision of the Commissioner pursuant to sentence four of 42 USC § 405(g) for further proceedings. (ECF No. 27.)

In his Motion for EAJA Fees pursuant to the Equal Access to Justice Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2412 ("the EAJA"), Plaintiff requests an award of $3, 043.26 in attorney's fees because he was the "prevailing party" and he claims that the position taken by the United States in this action was not substantially justified. (ECF No. 29 at 1). Defendant filed a response stating that the Commissioner does not object to Plaintiff's request for attorney's fees. (ECF No. 30.)

The EAJA provides attorney's fees in actions where the government's position is not substantially justified. The substantial justification test is one of reasonableness in law and fact. See Pierce v. Underwood, 487 U.S. 552, 565, 108 S.Ct. 2541, 101 L.Ed2d 490 (1988). The district court has broad discretion to set the attorney fee amount. "[A] district court will always retain substantial discretion in fixing the amount of an EAJA award. Exorbitant, unfounded, or procedurally defective fee applications... are matters that the district court can recognize." Hyatt v. North Carolina Dep't of Human Res, 315 F.3d 239, 254 (4th Cir. 2002) ( citing Comm'r v. Jean, 496 U.S. 154, 163 (1990)). Moreover, the court should not only consider the "position taken by the United States in the civil action, " but also the "action or failure to act by the agency upon which the civil action is based." 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(2)(D), as amended by P.L. 99-80, § 2(c)(2)(B). Upon consideration of this appeal and the confession of the defendant, this standard is found satisfied.

Accordingly, the court grants the motion, and directs the Commissioner to pay Plaintiff $3, 043.26 in attorney's fees. Such payment shall constitute a complete release from and bar to any and all further claims that Plaintiff may have under the EAJA to fees, costs, and expenses incurred in connection with disputing the Commissioner's decision. This award is without prejudice to the rights of Plaintiff's counsel to seek attorney fees under section 206(b) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 406(b), subject to offset under the Treasury Offset Program. See 31 U.S.C. § 3716(c)(3)(B)(2006). The Court directs that the Commissioner make the check payable to Plaintiff's counsel pursuant to the assignment of the same by the plaintiff and the agreement of the parties.[1]


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