United States District Court, D. South Carolina
Jacquelyn D. Austin United States Magistrate Judge.
matter is before the Court for consideration of a stipulated
agreement of attorneys fees and costs to Plaintiff for the
successful representation of Plaintiff by Richard J. Paul in
the underlying Social Security benefits action. [Docs. 18.]
The Commissioner's decision denying benefits to Plaintiff
was reversed and remanded for further administrative
proceedings by order of this Court under sentence four of 42
U.S.C. § 405(g) and § 1383(c)(3). [Doc. 16.]
Counsel for the parties have conferred and have agreed to an
award of $4, 000.00 for attorney's fees and $400.00 in
costs to Plaintiff. [Doc. 18.] The Court will review this
agreement in accordance with requirements of the Equal Access
to Justice Act (“EAJA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2412.
Except as otherwise specifically provided by statute, a court
shall award to a prevailing party other than the United
States fees and other expenses . . ., incurred by that party
in any civil action . . . brought by or against the United
States . . ., unless the court finds that the position of the
United States was substantially justified or that special
circumstances make an award unjust.
28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(A); see also Crawford v.
Sullivan, 935 F.2d 655, 656 (4th Cir. 1991) (stating
that the eligibility requirements for an award of fees under
the EAJA are (1) that the claimant is a prevailing party; (2)
that the government's position was not substantially
justified; (3) that no special circumstances make an award
unjust; and (4) that the claimant timely filed his petition
supported by an itemized statement).
claimant is a prevailing party if the case is remanded
pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Shalala v. Schaefer, 509 U.S. 292, 301-02 (1993).
Further, the government's position is
“substantially justified” if it “ha[s] a
reasonable basis both in law and in fact.”
Pierce v. Underwood, 487 U.S. 552, 563 (1988).
Finally, a fee petition is timely if filed within thirty days
of the final judgment. 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(B).
Plaintiff is the prevailing party, the Commissioner does not
contend that its position was substantially justified, the
Commissioner does not contend the agreed upon award is
unjustified, and in light of the stipulation for an award of
fees filed by the parties, the Court analyzes only whether
Plaintiff's requested award is reasonable. See Pierce
v. Underwood, 487 U.S. 552, 571 (1988) (noting that
appellate courts review attorney's fee awards for an
abuse of discretion); May v. Sullivan, 936 F.2d 176,
177 (4th Cir. 1991) (per curiam) (citing Pierce, 487
U.S. at 571) (stating that “district courts have
discretion to determine a reasonable fee award”). Under
the EAJA, “fees and other expenses” that may be
awarded to a prevailing party in a civil action against the
government must be “reasonable.” 28 U.S.C. §
2412(d)(2)(A)(ii) (internal quotation omitted). Congress
provided that the amount of fees awarded shall be based upon
prevailing market rates for the kind and quality of the
services furnished, except that attorney's fees shall not
be awarded in excess of $125 per hour unless the court
determines that “an increase in the cost of living or a
special factor, such as the limited availability of qualified
attorneys for the proceedings involved, justifies a higher
fee.” Id.; Hyatt v. Barnhart, 315
F.3d 239, 249 (4th Cir. 2002).
EAJA award, the Administration “is only charged with
those fees and expenses fairly attributable to the monitoring
and investigatory activities that led to the discovery of the
dispute and to the litigation of that dispute.”
Hyatt, 315 F.3d at 256. “Costs” are
limited to filing fees, copying, and printing charges. 28
U.S.C. § 1920; see also 28 U.S.C. §
2412(a)(1) (specifying that costs are limited to those
enumerated in 28 U.S.C. § 1920). Other items, such as
postage, attorney travel, and telephone charges, are
considered “expenses” under the EAJA.
See 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(A); Int'l
Woodworkers of Am. v. Donovan, 792 F.2d 762, 767 (9th
Cir. 1985) (upholding award of expenses for telephone
charges, postage, air courier charges, and attorney travel
and noting that such expenses are those normally billed to a
client and are routine under most fee statutes).
Commissioner has stipulated to the payment $4, 000.00 in
attorneys fees and $400.00 in costs to Plaintiff. [Doc. 18 at
1.] The parties have also stipulated that the awarded
attorneys fees be made payable to Plaintiff and delivered to
Plaintiff's counsel, and that the Commissioner will
determine whether Plaintiff has any outstanding federal debt
to be offset from the attorney fees and will pay the balance
of stipulated attorney fees remaining after subtracting the
amount of Plaintiff's outstanding federal debt.
[Id. at 1-2.] Upon review and consideration of the
stipulated agreement, in light of the EAJA, the Court
approves the stipulated agreement between the parties and
finds the requested attorney's fees are reasonable.
based upon the foregoing, it is ORDERED that the stipulated
agreement [Doc. 18] is approved and Plaintiff is awarded
attorney's fees in the amount of $4, 000.00 pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 2412(d) payable to Plaintiff. Pursuant to
Astrue v. Ratliff, 560 U.S. 586 (2010), EAJA fees
awarded by this court belong to the litigant, thus subjecting
EAJA fees to any debt that the Plaintiff may owe to the
United States. Therefore, the Court directs the Commissioner
to make the check, after subtracting the amount of
Plaintiff's outstanding federal debt, payable to the
Plaintiff and to deliver the check to the office of
Plaintiff's counsel. ...