United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Anderson/Greenwood Division
Jacquelyn D. Austin United States Magistrate Judge
matter is before the Court for consideration of a stipulated
agreement of attorneys fees to Plaintiff for the successful
representation of Plaintiff by Harry F. Smithson in the
underlying Social Security benefits action. [Doc. 31.] 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). [Doc. 26.] Counsel for the parties have
conferred and have agreed to an award of $4, 500.00 for
attorney's fees to Plaintiff. [Doc. 31.] The Court will
review this agreement in accordance with requirements of the
Equal Access to Justice Act ("EAJA"), 28 U.S.C.
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 Plaintiff timely filed and supported his
petition for attorney's fees, 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, 500.00 in
attorneys fees to Plaintiff. [Doc. 31 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. 31] is approved and Plaintiff is awarded
attorney's fees in the amount of $4, 500 pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 2412(d) payable to Plaintiff. Plaintiff's
Petitioner for Attorney's Fees [Doc. 28] is withdrawn
pursuant to the stipulated agreement. The Court directs the
Commissioner to make the check, after subtracting the amount