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Washington v. Social Security Administration

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

July 15, 2019

GREGORY WASHINGTON
v.
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION

         SECTION: “H”

          ORDER AND REASONS

          JANE TRICHE MILAZZO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Attorney's Fees under 28 U.S.C. § 2412, the Equal Access to Justice Act (“EAJA”) (Doc. 31).

         Plaintiff seeks a total of $7, 514.70. The amount is comprised of 3.05 attorney hours at $186 per hour for 2017 ($567.30), 29.7 attorney hours at $192 per hour in 2018 and 2019 ($5, 702.40), and 12.45 law clerk hours at $100 per hour ($1, 245.00).[1]

         Defendant Nancy A. Berryhill, the Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the “Commissioner”), concedes that “Plaintiff is entitled to an award of attorney fees under the EAJA, 28 U.S.C. § 2412, that hours worked are reasonable, and that the requested hourly rates for attorney services are reasonable. Accordingly, the [Government] is without objection to the hours spent and the EAJA rates requested in Plaintiff's Motion.”[2]

         The Commissioner nonetheless opposes Plaintiff's Motion on the ground that Plaintiff's counsel seeks a fee award payable to him rather than his client.[3]Indeed, contrary to Plaintiff's assertion, [4] the Supreme Court in Astrue v. Ratliff held that EAJA fees shall be paid “to the litigant” and not “directly to the attorney.”[5] The Fifth Circuit and other sections of this Court have recognized as much.[6] To the extent Plaintiff attempted to assign the award to his counsel, the assignment was defective because two witnesses did not sign it.[7]

         Although the award must be made payable to Plaintiff, it may be mailed to Plaintiff's attorney per counsel's request.[8]

         CONCLUSION

         For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff's Motion (Doc. 31) is GRANTED. Plaintiff Gregory Washington is hereby awarded attorney's fees under the EAJA in the amount of $7, 514.70. Payment shall be made payable to Plaintiff, but the check shall be sent to Plaintiffs counsel's office.

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Notes:

[1] Regarding attorney hours worked in 2018 and 2019, the text of Plaintiff's Motion requests a total of $5, 702.40 for 28.45 hours worked at $192 per hour. Doc. 31 at 1. But 28.45 hours of work at $192 per hour only amounts to $5, 462.40. Nevertheless, billing records attached to Plaintiff's Motion show that the total amount of attorney hours worked actually was 29.7 hours, not 28.45 hours. Doc. 31-3 at 3. The subtotal of $5, 702.40 results from 29.7 hours worked at $192 per hour. This explains the discrepancy in the text of Plaintiff's Motion.

[2] Doc. 34 at 1.

[3] See id.


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