Poulin v. Astrue
A court may award a plaintiff who is a "prevailing party" an increase to the hourly rate of $125 per hour for attorneys' fees, pursuant to the consumer price index. The plaintiff, who allegedly suffers from arthritis, lupus, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diverticulitis and fibromyalgia, requested Social Security disability benefits. An administrative law judge denied the plaintiff's request, and the plaintiff appealed to the District Court. The District Court remanded for a new hearing that included expert testimony on vocations. The plaintiff filed a request for attorneys' fees as a "prevailing party," pursuant to the Equal Access to Justice Act. The defendant commissioner of Social Security objected to the plaintiff's request for a cost-of-living increase of $59, on top of the statutory rate of $125 per hour, and argued that the cost-of-living increase for attorneys' fees should be capped at the national rate of $55 per hour. The plaintiff maintained that a cost-of-living increase of $59 per hour is the adjusted rate, pursuant to the consumer price index for the Northern region of the country. The District Court approved the plaintiff's request for a cost-of-living increase of $59 per hour, for an effective attorney's fee of $184 per hour. The court approved 38 hours of legal services and awarded attorneys' fees of $7,056.