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Carr v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Oregon

December 29, 2014

BILL D. CARR, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

PAUL PAPAK, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Bill D. Carr seeks attorney fees and costs pursuant to the Equal Access to Justice Act ("EAJA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2412. Carr's request (#29) includes fees related to his appeal to this Court conducted in various stages from March 30, 2013, to July 7, 2014. The Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") does not contest that Carr is entitled to EAJA fees. Instead, the Commissioner maintains that the amount Carr requests should be reduced as it is unreasonable in light of his unwillingness to accept an offer to remand this case, and his alleged failure to subsequently obtain greater relief than was offered to him. For the reasons set forth below, Carr's motion is granted in part and reduced by the amount requested by the Commissioner.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Carr protectively filed an application for benefits on April 9, 2009, alleging an onset date of April 30, 1998. The application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. Carr requested a hearing, which was held on June 9, 2009, before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). The ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled on August 19, 2011. After Carr presented the Social Security Appeals Council with additional medical evidence, the Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, rendering the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner.

Carr sought review of the ALJ's decision in this court on March 26, 2013. On January 31, 2014, the Commissioner filed a brief Requesting Remand to the Agency (#25), to which Carr replied in opposition on February 12, 2014.

On July 11, 2014, this court remanded Carr's case for further proceedings. See Carr v. Colvin, 2014 WL 3475056 (D. Or. July 11, 2014). This court issued the remand because it found that the Appeals Council erred in rejecting Carr's newly presented medical evidence when denying review of his claim. Carr timely filed his motion for attorney fees (#29) in the amount of $7, 741.48.

LEGAL STANDARD

A party that prevails against the United States in a civil action is entitled, in certain circumstances, to an award of attorney fees, court costs, and other expenses under the EAJA. 28 U.S.C. § 2412. Section 2412(d)(1)(A) of the EAJA provides in pertinent part:

Except as otherwise specifically provided by statute, a court shall award to a prevailing party other than the United States fees and other expenses, in addition to any costs awarded pursuant to subsection (a), 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)(l)(A).

"Fees and other expenses, " as defined in the EAJA, include "reasonable attorney fees." Id. Under the EAJA, attorney fees are set at the market rate, but capped at $125 per hour. Id. The statute explicitly permits the court, in its discretion, to reduce the amount awarded to the prevailing party to the extent that the party "unduly and unreasonably protracted" the resolution of the case. 28 U.S.C. §§ 2412(d)(1)©, 2412(d)(2)(D).

In determining a proper fee award under the EAJA, a court must consider the reasonableness of fees resulting from a motion or appeal that does not advance the moving party's position. See Atkins v. Apfel, 154 F.3d 986, 989 (9th Cir. 1998). While "[t]here is no precise rule or formula for making these determinations, " a court may consider an array of factors, including the results obtained from the disputed work. Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 422, 434, 436 (1983).

DISCUSSION

Carr argues that all hours expended at the federal district court level were reasonable and necessary due to the actions of the Commissioner, particularly conditions the Commissioner imposed on her Request for Remand ("Request") (#25).[1] Pl.'s Br. in Support of Motion for Attorney Fees Pursuant to EAJA ("Pl.'s Supp. Br."), #31, 3. The Commissioner argues that the time Carr spent opposing the Request, as well as subsequent time spent on the instant motion, is unreasonable under the framework set forth by EAJA and Atkins v. Apfel. See Atkins, 154 F.3d at 989. Relying on that argument and the ...


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