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Lowerre v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

July 15, 2014

FRANKLIN GRANGER LOWERRE, IV, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, [1] COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

OPINION and ORDER OF COURT

DONETTA W. AMBROSE, Senior District Judge.

I. BACKGROUND

This case was brought pursuant to the Social Security Act ("Act"). The case was decided in favor of Plaintiff on cross motions for summary judgment on February 13, 2014. (ECF No. 15). On May 14, 2014, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Attorney Fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act ("EAJA"), 28 U.S.C. §2412. (ECF No. 18). Plaintiff filed an Amended Motion on June 15, 2014. (ECF No. 23). Plaintiff seeks an award of $7, 531.09. (ECF No. 23). In response, Defendant does not argue that Plaintiff is not entitled to fees. (ECF Nos. 20, 26). Rather, Defendant only contests the reasonableness of the hours expended and the hourly rate and submits that Plaintiff should be awarded no more than $3, 248.27. Id. The issue is now ripe for review.

II. LEGAL ANALYSIS

The EAJA is applicable to final decisions under the Act and provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

Except as otherwise specifically provided by statute, a court shall award to a prevailing party other than the United States fees and other expenses, in addition to any costs awarded pursuant to subsection (a), incurred by that party in any civil action (other than cases sounding in tort), including proceedings for judicial review of agency action, brought by or against the United States in any court having jurisdiction of that action, 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.A. § 2412(d)(1)A).

Pursuant to the EAJA, the fees and expenses of attorneys must be reasonable. 28 U.S.C. §2412(b).

Generally speaking, a party seeking attorney's fees has the burden to prove that its request for attorney's fees is reasonable.'" Newell v. Comm'r of Social Security, 121 Fed.Appx. 937, 939 (3d Cir. Jan. 25, 2005) (quoting Rode v. Dellarciprete, 892 F.2d 1177, 1183 (3d Cir. 1990)). The EAJA requires "an itemized statement from any attorney... representing... the party stating the actual time expended and the rate at which fees and other expenses were computed." 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(B). A party opposing a fee award must support its challenge with an "affidavit or brief with sufficient specificity to give fee applicants notice" of the objections. Rode, 892 F.2d at 1183. A fee award may not be "decreas[ed]... based on factors not raised at all by the adverse party." Bell v. United Princeton Properties, Inc., 884 F.2d 713, 720 (3d Cir. 1989). However, "[o]nce the adverse party raises objections to the fee request, the district court has a great deal of discretion to adjust the fee award in light of those objections." Rode, 892 F.2d at 1183.

Evans v. Astrue, No. 12-850-LPS, 2013 WL 6869852, *1 (D. Del. Dec. 30, 2013).

A. Hours Reasonably Expended

Plaintiff asserts that a total of 39.7 hours were expended by counsel in this matter. (ECF No. 24, p. 6). Defendant argues that not all of said hours expended were reasonable. (ECF Nos. 20, 26). As to those issues raised by the party opposing the fee request, a "court must be careful to exclude from counsel's fee request hours that are excessive, redundant or otherwise unnecessary....'" Holmes v. Millcreek Township School Dist., 205 F.3d 583, 595 (3d Cir. 2000), quoting, Hensley, 461 U.S. 424, 434 (1983). Defendant makes specific objections as to the reasonableness of the hours billed by Plaintiff's counsel. (ECF Nos. 20 and 26). I will deal with each objection separately.

1. Review of Administrative Transcript and Preparation of Brief

Plaintiff's counsel seeks 23.8 hours for the review of the administrative transcript and preparation of Plaintiff's Brief. (ECF No. 19-1). Specifically, ...


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