United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Savannah Division
WILLIAM T. MOORE, JR., JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.
the Court is Plaintiff Corey Holton's Motion for
Attorney's Fees Under the Equal Access to Justice Act.
(Doc. 24.) Plaintiff's counsel seeks an award of fees in
the amount of $4, 543.57 under the Equal Access to Justice
Act ("EAJA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d).
(Id. at 2.) The Government partially objects,
arguing that Plaintiff's request for compensation of
paralegal tasks is set at the incorrect market rate. (Doc. 25
the Court notes that the Government has not opposed
Plaintiff's request for fees-rather, the Government
argues that Plaintiff's EAJA fees should be reduced by
calculating any compensable paralegal time by using a rate of
$80 per hour. (Id. at 4.) The Court has carefully
considered the motion and finds that Plaintiff meets the
requirements for such an award pursuant to the EAJA.
See Jean v. Nelson, 863 F.2d 759, 765 (11th
Cir. 1988) (holding that to recover attorney's fees
"(1) the litigant opposing the United States must be a
prevailing party; (2) the government's position must not
have been substantially justified; and (3) there must be no
circumstances that make an award against the government
Court must now determine whether the $96.88 rate for
paralegals, as requested by Plaintiff, is reasonable.
Attorneys' fees are calculated under the lodestar
formula, which is "the number of hours reasonably
expended on the litigation multiplied by a reasonable hourly
rate." Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433,
103 S.Ct. 1933, 1939, 76 L.Ed.2d 40 (1983). Under the
"lodestar" analysis, the Court must determine the
reasonable hourly rate for the attorneys' services.
Norman v. Housing Auth. of the City of Montgomery,
836 F.2d 1292, 1299 (11th Cir. 1988). "A reasonable
hourly rate is the prevailing market rate in the relevant
legal community for similar services by lawyers of reasonably
comparable skills, experience, and reputation."
Id. The fee applicant bears the burden of providing
"satisfactory evidence that the requested rate is in
line with prevailing market rates" and that
"satisfactory evidence at a minimum is more that the
affidavit of the attorney performing the work."
Id. Satisfactory evidence, therefore, must address
the rates actually billed and paid in similar lawsuits.
Government has cited numerous cases from district courts in
this circuit to demonstrate that a paralegal rate close to or
at $100 is unreasonable. (Doc. 25 at 3-4.) In response,
Plaintiff cites to cases in this circuit where the district
court found a paralegal rate of $100 per hour, or more, to be
reasonable. (Doc. 26 at 1-2.)
Court finds that that the Government's objection has
merit and that $75 is a reasonable hourly rate in this
market. First, the Court notes that two of the three cases
cited by Plaintiff are not social security appeals, nor are
they cases that occurred in this district. In Metro
Health EMS, Inc. v. Wells Fargo Bank, NA, No.
116CV04481LMMAJB, 2018 WL 3702451, at *2 (N.D.Ga. Apr. 4,
2018), report and recommendation adopted, No. 1:16-CV-4 4
81-LMM-AJB, 2018 WL 3702425 (N.D.Ga. May 1, 2018), the
Northern District of Georgia permitted a paralegal hourly
rate of $150. However, that case occurred in the Atlanta
legal market and involved a breach of contract action.
Id. at *1-2. Likewise, Pena v. RDI, LLC,
No. 8:17-CV-01404-T-AAS, 2019 WL 3017574, at *1 (M.D. Fla.
July 10, 2019), is a Fair Labor Standards Act
("FLSA") case from another location. The Court also
notes that the District Court for the Middle District of
Florida noted in its order that Plaintiffs counsel
"submitted detailed affidavits in support of this
contrast to these cases, courts in the Southern District of
Georgia have specifically found $75 to be a reasonable hourly
rate for paralegals in the context of social security
appeals. See Jones v. Saul, No. CV 118-010, 2019 WL
4879135, at *2 (S.D. Ga. July 1, 2019), report and
recommendation adopted, No. CV 118-010, 2019 WL 4877620 (S.D.
Ga. Oct. 2, 2019) (collecting cases). Other courts in this
circuit have also found that a rate of, or close to, $7 5 is
a reasonable hourly rate for paralegals in social security
appeals. See Zabala v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec, No.
6:17-CV-628-ORL-TBS, 2018 WL 6589837, at *2 (M.D. Fla. Dec.
14, 2018); Robinson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec, No.
8:13-CV-2073-T-23TGW, 2015 WL 176027, at *3 (M.D. Fla. Jan.
13, 2015) (finding a paralegal hourly rate of $60 for work
performed in 2014 to be reasonable); Burton v.
Berryhill, No. CV 16-00210-N, 2017 WL 4274434, at *4
(S.D. Ala. Sept. 26, 2017) (reducing the requested hourly
rate for paralegal time from $100 to $75) .
the Court finds that Plaintiff has not supported his request
for $96.88 as the hourly paralegal rate with evidence
sufficient for this Court to determine that such a rate is,
in fact, the market rate for paralegals. Neither affidavit of
the paralegals in this case, Deborah Dempsey or Martha
Kraeski, state what their customary billing rate is nor does
Plaintiff support his motion with opinion evidence from other
attorneys or paralegals of similar experience in the
community regarding the rate. "A fee applicant bears the
burden of establishing entitlement and documenting the
appropriate hours and hourly rates .... [And fee counsel must
supply] the court with specific and detailed evidence from
which the court can determine the reasonable hourly
rate.'" Aetna Grp. USA, Inc. v. AIDCO Int'l,
Inc., 432 F. App' x 842, 842 (11th Cir. 2011)
(quoting Norman, 836 F.2d at 1303) (alteration
adopted). The only calculation of how Plaintiff arrived at
$96.88 as the paralegal rate is a statement that the
paralegal rate is half of the requested hourly rate for
attorneys. (Doc. 24, Attach. 1 at 8.) Further, as noted
above, Plaintiff provided the Court with only one social
security appeal case in which the paralegal rate requested
was close to $100 and that case did not occur in this
district. Therefore, in light of the other cases from this
district and this circuit in which paralegals working on
social security appeals are routinely paid less than the
requested rate of $96.88, the Court finds that $7 5 is a
reasonable rate for the paralegal work performed in this
case. The Court, therefore, reduces the amount of requested
paralegal fees from $2, 538.2 6 to $1, 965.00, which is the
sum of 26.2 hours multiplied by an hourly rate of $75. In
total, the award of EAJA fees is reduced from $4, 543.57 to
$3, 970.31, which is the sum of $2, 005.31 plus $1, 965.00.
Plaintiff is AWARDED $3, 970.31 in attorneys' fees. Upon
the entry of this order, the Commissioner will determine
whether Plaintiff owes a debt to the Government that
qualifies under the Treasury Offset Program, 31 U.S.C.
§§ 3711, 3716. If Plaintiff owes such a debt, the
fee award will be applied towards that debt with any
remaining funds remitted to Plaintiff by a check delivered to
Plaintiff's counsel. If Plaintiff does not owe such a