United States District Court, D. Arizona
A. Teilborg, Senior United States District Judge
before the Court is Plaintiff Patrick Harding's Motion
for Attorney Fees and Costs Under the Equal Access to Justice
Act (“Motion”), (Doc. 20). Plaintiff has also
filed a Memorandum in Support of Motion for Attorney Fees
(“Memorandum”), (Doc. 21). After reviewing the
Commissioner of Social Security Administration's (the
“Commissioner's”) Response, (Doc. 22), and
Plaintiff's Reply, (Doc. 23), the Court grants in-part
and denies in-part Plaintiff's Motion.
originally filed an application for a period of disability,
disability insurance benefits, and Supplemental Security
Income (“SSI”) before the Social Security
Administration. (Doc. 21 at 2). Plaintiff's application
was denied by an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”). (Id.). The Social Security
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review.
(Id.). Plaintiff filed an appeal before this Court
and counsel filed a complaint on February 15, 2016. (Doc. 1).
Plaintiff and counsel entered into a fee agreement for
counsel's work before the Court. (Doc. 21-3 at 2).
November 9, 2016, the Court vacated the Commissioner's
decision and remanded Plaintiff's claim for further
proceedings. (Doc. 18). On February 8, 2017 Plaintiff filed
the pending Motion. (Doc. 20).
United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has
succinctly stated the legal standard for an award of
attorneys' fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act
(“EAJA”) as follows:
EAJA provides that 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 unless the court finds that
the position of the United States was substantially justified
or that special circumstances make an award unjust. It is the
government's burden to show that its position was
substantially justified. Substantial justification means
justified in substance or in the main-that is, justified to a
degree that could satisfy a reasonable person. Put
differently, the government's position must have a
reasonable basis both in law and fact. The position of the
United States includes both the government's litigation
position and the underlying agency action giving rise to the
civil action. Thus, if the government's underlying
position was not substantially justified, we must award fees
and need not address whether the government's litigation
position was justified.
Tobeler v. Colvin, 749 F.3d 830, 832 (9th Cir. 2014)
(citations, quotation marks, and alterations omitted).
awarding attorneys' fees under the EAJA, the court should
reimburse the prevailing party only for those fees which are
reasonably expended by that party's counsel. See
28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(2)(A) (2012). The prevailing party
bears the burden of proving the reasonableness of his request
through sufficiently detailed accounts of hours expended on
particular tasks so that the court can evaluate his
application. See Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424,
437 (1983); see Neil v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 495
F. App'x 845, 846 (9th Cir. 2012) (“A fee applicant
should maintain billing records in a manner that enables a
reviewing court to easily identify the hours reasonably
expended.” (quotation marks omitted)). Generally, if
the court reduces a fee application it must provide a reason;
however, “a district court can impose a reduction of up
to 10 percent-a ‘haircut'-based purely on the
exercise of its discretion and without more specific
explanation.” Costa v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 690 F.3d 1132, 1135 (9th Cir. 2012) (citing
Moreno v. City of Sacramento, 534 F.3d 1106, 1112
(9th Cir. 2008)).
Commissioner concedes that her position was not substantially
justified. (See Doc. 22 at 2 (“As procedural
errors by the [ALJ] below rendered the government's
position not substantially justified, the Commissioner does
not object to the motion for EAJA fees on this
basis.”)). Because the Commissioner concedes this
point, the Court next determines the measure of reasonable
attorney's fees to which Plaintiff is entitled under the
originally requested $8, 291.34 in attorneys' fees and
costs for 30.5 hours of attorney time, 19.5 hours of
paralegal time, and $470 in costs. (Doc. 21-2 at 2).
Plaintiff seeks attorneys' fees at a rate of $190.28 per
hour for work in 2015 and $192.68 per hour for work in
2016. The Commissioner objects to the amount of
fees and costs requested, and seeks reductions for (1)
Plaintiff's counsels' pro hac vice fee; (2)
Plaintiff's billing of clerical and secretarial tasks;
(3) Plaintiff's quarter-hour increment billing; and (4)
ten percent of the EAJA award. (Doc. 22 at 3-9); see also
Moreno, 534 F.3d at 1112. In his Reply, Plaintiff
concedes to certain reductions,  adds fees for litigating
this Motion, and updates the requested amount to $8, 801.21.
(Doc. 23 at 2-5). The parties still dispute (1) reductions
for three entries that were billed as quarter-hours; and (2)
a reduction of ten-percent of all of Plaintiff's fees and
Reduction for ...