Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Coughlin v. Astrue

September 28, 2009

JOHN M. COUGHLIN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE,*FN1 COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Norman A. Mordue, Chief U.S. District Judge

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff John Coughlin moves for an award of attorney's fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act ("EAJA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2412. (Dkt. No. 15). The Commissioner opposes plaintiff's motion arguing that the amount of fees requested is excessive. (Dkt. No. 17).

II. BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Familiarity with the history in the case is assumed based on this Court's previous Order. See Coughlin v. Astrue, 06-CV-0497, Dkt. No. 13 (June 4, 2008) (Order). On August 23, 2002, plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance benefits ("DIB"). (T. 52-54; 350-52).*fn2

Plaintiff's application was denied and an administrative hearing was held before an ALJ. (T. 30-35; 353-58). On November 26, 2004, the ALJ issued a decision denying plaintiff's claim for benefits. (T. 13-19). On April 7, 2006, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's decision the final determination of the Commissioner. (T. 7-10). On April 21, 2006, plaintiff brought the above-captioned action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) of the Social Security Act, seeking review of the Commissioner of Social Security's decision to deny his application for DIB benefits. (Dkt. No. 1). Both parties moved for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Dkt. Nos. 9, 10). This matter was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Gustave DiBianco for a Report and Recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 72.3(d).

On May 16, 2008, Magistrate Judge DiBianco recommended that the matter be remanded to the Commissioner for further proceedings including clarification with regard to plaintiff's residual functional capacity by specific reference to the record. (Dkt. No. 12). On June 4, 2008, after considering the Report-Recommendation and with no objections submitted thereto, this Court adopted the Report-Recommendation in its entirety (Dkt. No. 13). On July 31, 2008, plaintiff filed the within motion seeking attorney's fees in the sum of $7,746.56. (Dkt. No. 15).

III. DISCUSSION

The EAJA provides:

[A] court shall award to a prevailing party . . . fees and other expenses . . . incurred by that party in any civil action . . . 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. 2412(d)(1)(A). In order for a party to be awarded attorney's fees under the EAJA, the plaintiff must demonstrate that he or she: 1) is the prevailing party; 2) eligible to receive an award; 3) enumerate the amount sought; 4) show the rate at which fees were computed; and 5) allege that the position of the United States was not substantially justified. See § 2412(d)(1)(B). However, even if an agency's position was not substantially justified, an award of fees may be denied or reduced pursuant to EAJA if "special circumstances" would make an otherwise proper award "unjust". Ortiz v. Chater, 1997 WL 50217, at *4 (E.D.N.Y. 1997) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(A)). Although the statute does not define the key terms "special circumstances" and "unjust", the Second Circuit has held that equitable considerations should inform a court's decision in this area. Id. (citing Oguachuba v. INS, 706 F.2d 93, 98 (2d Cir. 1983)).

In this case, plaintiff claims that an EAJA award is available as: (1) plaintiff's net worth did not exceed $2,000,000 at the time the action was filed; (2) plaintiff was a "prevailing party" in a case against the government; and (3) the position of the United States was not substantially justified. (Dkt. No. 15). The Commissioner opposes the motion and argues that plaintiff's fee application is excessive.*fn3 (Dkt. No. 17).

A. Reasonableness of Fee Request

Plaintiff requests an award in the amount of $7,746.56 for 47 hours of attorney work. Defendant argues that if this Court finds that an award of fees is appropriate, 20 to 40 hours is generally standard in social security matters. (Dkt. No. 17, p. 2). Defendant claims that the attorney's time was excessive in various instances. (Dkt. No. 17, p. 7-8). Moreover, defendant argues that counsel's billing in 1/4-hour increments resulted in ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.