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Woody v. Colvin

United States District Court, S.D. New York

February 19, 2015

QUINCY WOODY, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Defendant.

Irwin M. Portnoy, Esq., Irwin M. Portnoy and Associates, P.C., New Windsor, NY, for Plaintiff.

Joshua L. Kershner, Special Assistant United States Attorney, New York, NY, for Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

SHIRA A. SCHEINDLIN, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

In February 2014, plaintiff brought an action under 42 U.S.C. ยง 405(g) seeking a review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (the "Commissioner" or "defendant"), which had denied plaintiffs application for disability insurance benefits.[1] After defendant answered the Complaint, plaintiff filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.[2] Rather than oppose that motion, defendant volunteered to remand the matter for further proceedings - an offer which plaintiff accepted.[3] On September 23, 2014, the matter was remanded to the Commissioner.[4]

Plaintiff now moves pursuant to Section 2412(d) of the Equal Access to Justice Act ("EAJA") for an award of attorney's fees in the amount of $11, 263.89 for 58.89 hours of time his attorney, Irwin M. Portnoy, claims to have expended on the matter.[5] Defendant concedes that plaintiff is entitled to some award of fees, but asks the Court to reduce Mr. Portnoy's requested fee on the ground that it is "grossly excessive."[6] For the reasons set forth below, plaintiff's motion is GRANTED IN PART.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standard

The EAJA provides in relevant part 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 (other than cases sounding in tort), including proceedings for judicial review of agency action, brought by or 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.[7]

To recover attorney's fees under the EAJA, a party must file, within thirty days of the entry of a final judgment, an application for fees (1) establishing that he is the prevailing party and eligible to receive an award; (2) setting forth the amount of fees and expenses sought, including an itemized statement showing the actual time expended and the rate at which the fees were computed; and (3) alleging that the "position of the United States was not substantially justified."[8] Here, defendant does not dispute that plaintiff has satisfied the above elements, conceding that an EAJA award is appropriate.

B. Reasonable Fees Under the EAJA

Accordingly, the only legal question for the Court to resolve is whether plaintiff's requested fee should be reduced. In assessing a request for attorney's fees under the EAJA, the Court has broad discretion to determine the amount of time reasonably expended by the moving party.[9] The amount of attorney's fees to be awarded must be reasonable.[10] "District courts in th[e] [Second] Circuit generally hold that twenty to forty hours is a reasonable expenditure of counsel time for routine social security cases."[11] "When a case does not raise any extraordinarily difficult or complex legal or factual issues, courts have determined that the hours spent litigating it should not [] exceed[] the guideline range.'"[12]

Defendant argues that the instant matter does not warrant an expenditure of 58.89 hours because the case "does not involve any issues of first impression, unique or extraordinary facts, or any procedural complications that Mr. Portnoy has not dealt with many times before."[13] Further, defendant points out that Mr. Portnoy has substantial experience in the area of social security ...


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