United States District Court, W.D. New York
ERIC J. LUBBERTS, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
W. PAYSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Eric J. Lubberts (“Lubberts”) brought this action
pursuant to Section 205(g) of the Social Security Act (the
“Act”), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial
review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security (the “Commissioner”). (Docket # 1). The
Commissioner's decision denied Lubberts's application
for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”).
(Id.). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the
parties consented to the disposition of this case by a United
States magistrate judge. (Docket # 7). On March 16, 2016,
this Court entered a judgment reversing the
Commissioner's denial of DIB and remanding the case to
the Commissioner pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g),
sentence four, for further administrative proceedings.
(Docket # 15).
is Lubberts's motion for attorney's fees and costs
pursuant to the Equal Access to Justice Act
(“EAJA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2412. (Docket ## 18,
23). Lubberts seeks fees based upon the expenditure of 55.95
hours, including the time spent on this motion.
(Id.). Although Lubberts's counsel states
reimbursement for that time amounts, plus $425.38 in costs,
amounts to $11, 258.07 (Docket # 23-2 at ¶ 2), he
requests payment of a total of $10, 099.19 (id. at
¶ 3). The Commissioner opposes the motion, contending
that the number of hours, 55.95, for which counsel seeks
reimbursement is “excessive and unreasonable.”
(Docket # 21).
addition, Lubberts also requests that the Commissioner make
any EAJA award payable directly to his counsel, and that this
Court impose a deadline for the Commissioner to determine
whether Lubberts owes a federal debt that might offset his
EAJA award. (Docket # 18-1 at 12).
below reasons, Lubberts's motion is granted in part and
denied in part.
[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 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). “Fees and other
expenses” include “reasonable attorney fees,
” which “shall not be awarded in excess of $125
per hour unless the court determines that an increase in the
cost of living or a special factor, such as the limited
availability of qualified attorneys for the proceedings
involved, justifies a higher fee.” See 28
U.S.C. at § 2412(d)(2)(A).
determine EAJA fees by “examining the amount of time
expended on the litigation and the attorney's hourly
rate, which is capped by statute.” James v.
Colvin, 66 F.Supp.3d 365, 367 (W.D.N.Y. 2014).
“The [c]ourt must determine if the hours expended and
the rates charged are reasonable, and the fee applicant has
the burden to establish the reasonableness of both.”
Id. at 367. “The [c]ourt has broad discretion
to determine what amount of time is ‘reasonably'
expended.” Scott v. Astrue, 474 F.Supp.2d 465,
466 (W.D.N.Y. 2007).
district courts in this Circuit have held that a routine
Social Security case requires from twenty to forty hours of
attorney time.” Id. at 466. “Where the
facts of a specific case warrant it, however, courts do not
hesitate to award fees in excess of forty hours.”
Id. at 466 (collecting cases). “A larger award
may be reasonable where a case is not routine because of the
factual, substantive, and procedural complexity of the case;
the size of the administrative record; and the efficacy of
the attorney's efforts.” Forrest v.
Colvin, 2016 WL 6892784, *3 (S.D.N.Y. 2016).
the Commissioner does not dispute that Lubberts was the
“prevailing party” or contend “the position
of the United States was substantially justified.”
See 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(A). Nor does the
Commissioner challenge Lubberts's hourly rates, which are
set at the statutory cap and increased based on the cost of
living. (Docket ## 21 at 10 n.7; ...