United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana
RICKEY J. SIMONEAUX
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY
RULING ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR ATTORNEY
RICHARD L. BOURGEOIS, JR., UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Attorney Fees (R.
Doc. 21) under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), 28
U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(A) filed on August 26, 2019. The
Commissioner filed its Opposition (R. Doc. 22) on September
9, 2019, and Plaintiff filed his Reply (R. Doc. 25) on
September 18, 2019, correcting the deficiencies raised by the
Commissioner in its Opposition.
action, Plaintiff appealed the Commissioner of the Social
Security Administration's denial of his application for
disability benefits. (R. Doc. 1). On May 28, 2019, the Court
issued its Ruling on Plaintiff's Social Security appeal
(R. Doc. 19), and subsequent Judgment (R. Doc. 20), reversing
the decision of the Commissioner and remanding the claim for
further proceedings. Plaintiff then filed the present Motion.
LAW AND ANALYSIS
Equal Access to Justice Act (“EAJA”) provides
that a court shall award attorney's fees and costs to a
prevailing party in a civil action brought 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); Baker v. Bowen, 839 F.2d 1075, 1080
(5th Cir. 1988). The parties do not dispute that Plaintiff is
the prevailing party who filed a timely application for fees,
and the Commissioner concedes that Plaintiff is entitled to
recover reasonable fees under § 2412 of the EAJA.
Therefore, an award of reasonable attorney's fees is
proper in the instant case.
Calculation of Fees
asks for attorney's fees to compensate his attorney for
40.4 hours of work at a rate of $175 per hour, for a total of
$7, 070.00. The Commissioner opposed Plaintiff's initial
application, arguing that his itemization was insufficient to
allow it to assess the reasonableness of the fee request. (R.
Doc. 22 at 3). Plaintiff then filed a Reply, attaching a
revised itemization that includes the identity of the
employee who completed each itemized task. (R. Doc. 25-1).
The Commissioner has filed no objection post-dating the
revised Itemization of Time submitted by Plaintiff.
reviewed Plaintiff's revised Itemization of Time (R. Doc.
25-1), as well as similar cases in this district and others
over the past several years, the Court finds the rate
requested of $175 per hour to be reasonable for the hours
expended by attorneys. See Gann v. Colvin, 2017 WL
385038, at *2-3 (M.D. La. Jan. 27, 2017) (hourly rate of $175
was reasonable). The Court notes, however, that the final
entry on Plaintiff's Itemization of Time, the
“preparation of Plaintiff's petition for attorney
fees under the EAJA” on July 25, 2019, was completed by
an Operations Manager. District courts in this circuit have
found rates of $75.00 to $100.00 an hour to be a reasonable
rate for non-attorney work. See, e.g., Ronda C. v.
Berryhill, 2019 WL 1793040, at *3 n. 8 (N.D. Tex. Apr.
3, 2019) (rate of $95.00 an hour reasonable for paralegal
work); Richthofen v. Berryhill, 2019 WL 2079840, at
*1 (E.D. La. Jan. 28, 2019) (rate of $75-$100 an hour
reasonable for paralegal work); Suarez v. Covlin,
2015 WL 328248, at *1 (N.D. Tex. Jan. 26, 2015) ($95.00 an
hour for paralegal work). Accordingly, the Court will reduce
the award for the .5 hours of work completed by the
Operations Manager from $175 an hour to $100 an hour, for a
total of $50.
on the foregoing, the Court will award a total of $7, 032.50,
which comprises 39.9 hours of attorney work at a rate of $175
per hour, and .5 hours of non-attorney work at a rate of $100
Payment of Fee Award
for Plaintiff represents that Plaintiff assigned his rights
to any EAJA fees to his counsel, attaching a Contingent Fee
Agreement in support thereof. (R. Doc. 21-3). Plaintiff also
recognizes (in the proposed order) that any award of fees
will be contingent upon a determination by the Government
that Plaintiff owes no qualifying, pre-existing debts to the
Government. (T. Doc. 21-4). The fees award, therefore, shall
be payable to Plaintiff, as “a § 2412(d) fees
award is payable to the litigant” and not the attorney
because the award may be “subject to a Government
offset to satisfy a pre-existing debt that the litigant owes
the United States.” Astrue v. Ratliff, 560
U.S. 586, 589 (2010). And so, the attorney's fees will be
awarded and paid to Plaintiff but can be mailed to
reasons discussed above, IT IS ORDERED that
Plaintiff's Motion for Attorney Fees (R. Doc. 21) is
GRANTED. The Commissioner of the Social
Security Administration is
to send to Plaintiff's counsel a check made payable to
“Rickey J. Simoneaux” for fees in the amount of
$7.032.50 (39.9 hours at $175.00 per hour, and .5 hours at