Wells v. Colvin
Although a prevailing party may be entitled to attorneys' fees pursuant to the Equal Access to Justice Act, a court may deduct time that an attorney spends on clerical tasks. The plaintiff sued the commissioner of Social Security and requested attorneys' fees for 45 hours of legal work performed between 2011 and 2013. The defendant objected that the plaintiff's request was excessive. The Equal Access to Justice Act provides, "[A] court shall award to a prevailing party . . . fees and other expenses . . . incurred by that party in any civil action . . . against the United States . . . unless . . . the position of the United States was substantially justified." In Parsons v. Commissioner of Social Security, a 2008 decision, the Northern District of New York wrote, "Courts . . . have consistently found that routine Social Security cases require, on average, between 20 and 40 hours of attorney time to prosecute." There was no dispute that the plaintiff is a prevailing party. Based on the consumer price index, the Connecticut District Court approved a cost-of-living increase to the basic rate of compensation, which is capped at $125 per hour. The court deducted two hours that were spent performing clerical tasks. "[H]ours spent performing clerical or administrative tasks," wrote the court, "are not compensable under the EAJA." The court also deducted time spent on a motion for extension of time and associated correspondence, which only should have required 45 minutes. The court approved attorneys' fees of $7,289 for 39 hours of legal work at the rate of $185 per hour, plus costs of $47.