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Morgan v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

May 15, 2017

KEVIN C. MORGAN, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          MARY L. COOPER, United States District Judge

         This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff Kevin C. Morgan's (“Plaintiff”) Motion for an Award of Attorney's Fees and Costs Pursuant to the Equal Access to Justice Act (“EAJA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d) (the “Motion”). (Dkt. 14.)[1] Defendant Acting Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner” or “Defendant”) does not oppose Plaintiff's Motion, but raises an objection with respect to the payment of the award of attorney's fees directly to Plaintiff's counsel. (Dkt. 15.) For the following reasons, Plaintiff's Motion is granted.

         BACKGROUND

         On November 18, 2016, Plaintiff filed a complaint seeking review of the denial of his claim for Social Security benefits by the Commissioner. (See dkt. 1.) As required by Local Civil Rule 9.1(d)[2], Plaintiff filed a statement of primary contentions explaining his position in regard to his entitlement to relief. (See dkt. 8.) The parties consented to remand, and the Court entered an Order remanding this case to the Commissioner for further administrative proceedings under sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). (Dkt. 13.)

         Plaintiff filed the pending Motion seeking attorney's fees on April 17, 2017 as the prevailing party in this action. (Dkt. 15.) Plaintiff seeks attorney's fees for 12.9 hours of work performed at an hourly rate of $196.21, a sum of $2, 531.00. In addition, Plaintiff seeks $400.00 in costs. In total, Plaintiff seeks $2, 931.00. The Commissioner does not oppose the relief requested. (Dkt. 15 at 1.)

         DISCUSSION

         I. Applicable Standard

         The EAJA, in pertinent part, 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 . . . 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.

28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(A). As a prerequisite to an award of attorney's fees, however, a court must find: (1) plaintiff timely submitted an application for attorney's fees and the requested amount is reasonable; (2) plaintiff was the prevailing party in the underlying action against the United States; and (3) the position of the United States in the underlying action was not substantially justified, nor do special circumstances make an award unjust. Kadelski v. Sullivan, 30 F.3d 399, 401 (3d Cir. 1994).

         II. Analysis

         Upon consideration of Plaintiff's Motion and the applicable law, the Court finds that Plaintiff is entitled to an award of attorney's fees in this case.

         A. Plaintiff's Application for Attorney's Fees is Timely

         Applications for attorney's fees must be made within thirty days of a “final judgment.” 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(B). Cases, such as this, that are remanded under sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) are considered “final” immediately upon remand. See Shalala v. Schaefer, 509 U.S. 292, 302-04 (1993). Plaintiff filed the Motion six days after we remanded this case to the Commissioner for further administrative ...


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