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Davidson v. Colvin

United States District Court, N.D. New York

April 22, 2014

LAURA J. DAVIDSON, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, in place of Michael J. Astrue, Defendant.

IRWIN M. PORTNOY, ESQ., IRWIN M. PORTNOY & ASSOCIATES, PC, New Windsor, New York, Attorneys for Plaintiff.

BENIL ABRAHAM, ESQ., SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Office of the General Counsel New York, New York. Attorney for Defendant.

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

MAE A. D'AGOSTINO, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Laura J. Davidson moves for an award of attorneys' fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act ("EAJA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2412. Dkt. No. 25. The Commissioner opposes Plaintiff's motion on the grounds that the amount of fees requested is excessive. Dkt. No. 26.

II. BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

In June of 2009, Plaintiff filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") under the Social Security Act, alleging that she has been disabled since March of 2007 ("First Application"). This application was initially denied and Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Michael A. Rodriguez granted Plaintiff's request for a hearing. Thereafter, ALJ Rodriguez concluded on April 11, 2011, that Plaintiff was not disabled at the relevant times and, therefore, did not qualify for DIB. See Dkt. No. 8 at 10-24.

In May of 2011, Plaintiff filed a second application for DIB, this time alleging that she had been disabled since April 12, 2011 ("Second Application"). This application was also initially denied and Plaintiff requested a hearing on November 17, 2011. See Dkt. No. 17-1. On December 27, 2011, ALJ Rodriguez's opinion with respect to the First Application became a final determination of the agency, when the Social Security Administration Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review of that decision. See Dkt. No. 8 at 1-6.

On February 23, 2012, Plaintiff timely commenced this action, arguing that ALJ Rodriguez failed to apply the correct standards and that his findings with respect to the First Application were unsupported by substantial evidence. See Dkt. No. 1. The parties' then filed cross-motions for judgment on the pleadings. See Dkt. Nos. 11, 13. While those motions were pending, ALJ Dale Black-Pennington issued an order on Plaintiff's Second Application on November 19, 2012, concluding that Plaintiff had been disabled since April 12, 2011. See Dkt. No. 17-1. Thereafter, Plaintiff filed a motion to remand pursuant to sentence six of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). See Dkt. No. 17. In her motion for a sentence six remand, Plaintiff argued with respect to the First Application that Defendant should be ordered to consider "new evidence, " including, inter alia, a medical source statement prepared by a treating psychiatrist in May of 2011 ("May 2011 Report"). See Dkt. No. 17-2.

In a Report and Recommendation dated August 26, 2013, Magistrate Judge Victor E. Bianchini concluded that "although [the May 2011 Report] was not available to ALJ Rodriguez, it was submitted to the Appeals Council in connection with Plaintiff's [F]irst [A]pplication.... As such, it is not newly acquired evidence' as contemplated by sentence six." Dkt. No. 22 at 7. Although the May 2011 Report was before the Appeals Council when it denied review in December of 2011, Magistrate Judge Bianchini found that "the Appeals Council not only failed to provide good reasons' for disregarding the [May 2011 Report], it did not provide any reasons at all. Moreover, ... there is a reasonable possibility that ALJ Rodriguez would have reached a different result if the original administrative record had included [the May 2011 Report]." Id. at 13. Accordingly, Magistrate Judge Bianchini found that remand under sentence four of Section 405(g) would be appropriate.

As such, Magistrate Judge Bianchini recommended that Plaintiff's motion for a sentence six remand be denied, that Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings be granted, that Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings be denied, and that this case be remanded for further proceedings. See id. at 15-16. Neither party objected to Magistrate Judge Bianchini's Report-Recommendation.

On September 18, 2013, this Court adopted the Report-Recommendation and remanded the case for further proceedings. Dkt. No. 23. On September 25, 2013, Plaintiff filed the instant motion seeking attorneys' fees in the sum of $16, 416.09, see Dkt. No. 25, and later supplemented her petition to include fees incurred preparing the instant motion for a total of $17, 643.29. See Dkt. No. 29-1.

III. DISCUSSION

The EAJA ...


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