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WILLIAMS v. BOWEN

May 20, 1988

Geraldine Williams
v.
Otis R. Bowen, M.D., Secretary of Health and Human Services



The opinion of the court was delivered by: KATZ

 Marvin Katz, J.

 The plaintiff, through her counsel, has filed a motion asking the court to award $ 3403.75 in attorney's fees to her counsel, Community Legal Services, Inc. (CLSI), pursuant to the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d). She has also filed a supplemental motion asking for an additional $ 279 in attorney's fees for the work involved in preparing the reply to the defendant's memorandum in opposition to her initial motion. For the reasons stated below, the court will grant both motions in part.

 I. BACKGROUND

 In April 1974, the plaintiff, Geraldine Williams, was severely beaten and raped by her nephew. As a result, Ms. Williams suffered a marked decline in her physical and mental health, which prevented her from continuing to work as a short-order cook. After many visits over a period of several years to various physicians, hospitals, and clinics, Ms. Williams filed applications for supplemental security income benefits and disabled widow's insurance benefits. *fn1" See 42 U.S.C. §§ 405, 1383(c)(3). An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), acting on behalf of the Secretary of Health and Human Services (the Secretary), denied both claims. The ALJ stated that Ms. Williams was not entitled to supplemental security income benefits and that her application for disabled widow's insurance benefits was barred by the doctrine of res judicata. After reviewing the case, this court remanded both claims for further development and evaluation.

 The ALJ held a new hearing on March 3, 1986, at which he refused to reconsider the claim for disabled widow's insurance benefits. After the hearing, he recommended that the Secretary dismiss that claim as res judicata and grant Ms. Williams supplemental security income benefits from February 19, 1985. The basis for the latter recommendation was the ALJ's finding that Ms. Williams had an anxiety disorder as of that date, entitling her to supplemental security income benefits. See 20 C.F.R. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1, § 12.06 (1987); 20 C.F.R. § 416.925 (1987). The Secretary adopted the recommendations as his final decision on January 9, 1987. After reviewing the case a second time, this court reversed the findings of the ALJ and ordered the Secretary to pay Ms. Williams the greater of the disabled widow's insurance benefits or the supplemental security income benefits. See 42 U.S.C. § 402(k)(3)(A); Dwyer v. Califano, 636 F.2d 908, 909 n.1 (3d Cir. 1980).

 Now Ms. Williams seeks attorney's fees for her counsel pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(A). The Secretary concedes that the government must pay attorney's fees and agrees to pay the amounts requested for writing the second motion for summary judgment and preparing the application for attorney's fees. He objects, however, to the amount requested for a law student's work on the first motion for summary judgment, claiming that the student's hourly rate was too high and that the time he spent was excessive. The Secretary also objects to the request that the court order him to pay all fees within thirty days or face an interest penalty. The court will discuss these objections in turn. In addition, the court must determine whether Ms. Williams's attorney is entitled to fees for preparing the reply to the Secretary's memorandum in opposition to the initial application for attorney's fees.

 II. DISCUSSION

 A. The Appropriate Rate For The Law Student's Work

 The law student graduated from law school in May 1986 and has been a practicing attorney since the fall of that year. He drafted the plaintiff's first motion for summary judgment and the supporting memorandum while working as a summer intern at CLSI between his second and third years of law school. The CLSI Attorney's Fees Committee has approved a billing rate of $ 40 per hour for law students' time. That rate is proper for someone working in the Philadelphia market who has completed two years of law school. See Citizens Council of Delaware County v. Brinegar, 741 F.2d 584, 596 (3d Cir. 1984) (approving paralegal rates of $ 50 per hour); see also Brinker v. Guiffrida, 798 F.2d 661, 668 (3d Cir. 1986) (remanding for determination based upon affidavits a fee request for a law clerk's work at the rate of $ 45 per hour); cf. Bolden v. Pennsylvania State Police, 491 F. Supp. 958, 965 (E.D. Pa. 1980) (Green, J.) (awarding fees under 42 U.S.C. § 1988 for work performed by a law student intern in 1978-79 at the rate of $ 35 per hour, and rejecting the view that his services were office overhead and therefore not compensable).

 Although the cases cited above as well as a case in its own circuit *fn2" cast doubt on the holding in Ashton v. Pierce, 580 F. Supp. 440 (D.D.C. 1984), the Secretary relies on that case to support his argument that the appropriate billing rate for the law student is $ 10 per hour. The court in Ashton held that the government should reimburse the work of law students and paralegals only at their actual salary cost to the firm or organization, not at their normal hourly billing rate. To support this holding, the court relied on the highlighted portion of the following excerpt from the legislative history of the EAJA:

 H.R. Rep. No. 1418, 96th Cong., 2d Sess. 15 (1980), reprinted in 1980 U.S. Code Cong. & Admin. News 4953, 4994 (emphasis added). The court interpreted this language to mean that the EAJA was not intended to compensate attorneys for any costs not covered in their hourly billing rates. It stated, "To award 'fees' for law clerk and paralegal time at hourly charges billed to clients would, in effect, be to compensate those firms both for overhead and profit." Ashton, supra, 580 F. Supp. at 443.

 The highlighted language is ambiguous. Although it might support the court's conclusion in Ashton, that conclusion is inconsistent with the broader purpose of the EAJA. Congress enacted the EAJA to "ensure that [persons] will not be deterred from seeking review of, or defending against, unjustified governmental action because of the expense involved in securing the vindication of their rights." H.R. Rep. No. 99-120(I), 99th Cong., 1st Sess. 11 (1985), reprinted in 1985 U.S. Code Cong. & Admin. News 132, 132-33. Accord Goldhaber v. Foley, 698 F.2d 193, 195 (3d Cir. 1983). In keeping with this purpose, Congress indicated that "the computation of attorney fees should be based on prevailing market rates without reference to the fee arrangements between the attorney and client." H.R. Rep. No. 1418, supra; cf. Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. 886, 79 L. Ed. 2d 891, 104 S. Ct. 1541 (1984) (non-profit legal aid society is entitled to market rates under 42 U.S.C. § 1988 even though it had no conventional hourly billing rate and would have received no fee from its clients); Student Public Interest Research Group, Inc. v. AT&T Bell Laboratories, 842 F.2d 1436 (3d Cir. 1988)(for-profit public interest law firms are entitled to attorney's fees based on the rates of comparable lawyers in the private business sphere). If courts do not award compensation for the work of law students and paralegals, lawyers may be discouraged from accepting cases such as this one, or as the court noted in Ashton, they may handle ...


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