ORDER GRANTING PETITION FOR ATTORNEYS' FEES
JANE MAGNUS-STINSON, District Judge.
Plaintiff Staci Harrington moves for an award of attorneys' fees pursuant to the Equal Access to Justice Act ("
A. Hourly Rate
Ms. Harrington requests an hourly rate of $190.00 per hour. [
In response, the Commissioner argues that the Court should reduce the requested hourly rate. [
In reply, Ms. Harrington reiterates many of the same arguments she made in her opening brief. [
The EAJA allows a prevailing party, other than the United States, to receive attorneys' fees for work performed in proceedings for judicial review of agency 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)(1)(A). "[A]ttorney fees shall not be awarded in excess of $125 per hour unless the court determines that an increase in the cost of living or a special factor, such as the limited availability of qualified attorneys for the proceedings involved, justifies a higher fee." 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(2)(A)(ii). "Courts should generally award the inflation-adjusted rate according to the CPI, using the date on which the legal services were performed." Sprinkle v. Colvin, 777 F.3d 421, 428 (7th Cir. 2015). "[G]eneral measures like the CPI will provide a reasonably accurate measure of the need for an inflation adjustment in most cases." Id. "[C]laimants must produce evidence that the rate they request is in line with those prevailing in the community for similar services by lawyers of comparable skill and experience." Id. at 428. While a single sworn statement from a claimant's attorney that sets forth the prevailing market rate can be sufficient evidence in some cases, to avoid the possibility of a windfall, "courts may not award an inflation-adjusted rate that is higher than the prevailing market rate in the community for comparable legal services." Id. at 429.
Ms. Harrington claims that the National market is the most relevant here, and includes a sworn affidavit from Andrew P. Sheff, in which he points out that the $190.00 hourly rate is reasonable for the Indianapolis market. The Court disagrees. The Midwest urban market most accurately reflects the prevailing market rate of the legal community, and, as the Commissioner concedes, it should include the rate of inflation. Other district courts have agreed with this conclusion, and evaluated other factors to justify this reasoning. See Pollard v. Colvin, 2015 WL 846425, at *3 (S.D. Ind. 2015) (finding that plaintiff used the Midwest urban market CPI and also "attached several charts displaying the standard hourly billing rates for attorneys in the Indianapolis-Carmel, Indiana statistical area, which show that even an attorney with less than two years of legal experience who charges in the lower quartile in 2009 charged at a rate of $185.00 per hour . . . . [This demonstrates that] the requested rate of $185.62 does not exceed the prevailing market rate."); Jones v. Berryhill, No. 1:16-cv-00948-SEB-MJD, Filing No. 24 at 4-5 ("Plaintiff asserts that [the hourly rate of $184.75 for 2015 was] below the market rate for the same kind and quality of legal services as performed in this case, supporting this claim by citing a survey showing the lowest quartile standard hourly rate for an attorney with less than two years of experience in the Indianapolis area was $185/hour. As the attorney in this matter has more than 20 years of experience, the Court finds it is reasonable to assert the requested hourly rate for work on this case.")
In order to incorporate the rate of inflation using the Midwest urban CPI,
B. Number of Hours
Ms. Harrington claims that her counsel
In response, the Commissioner argues that the number of hours that Ms. Harrington's counsel request are excessive. [
In reply, Ms. Harrington claims that her counsel devoted a reasonable number of hours to working on this case, and that their request "does not even reflect the full amount of hours actually incurred by the firm on the underlying litigation." [
The party seeking a fee award has the burden of showing that the fees sought are reasonable. See 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(B); Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 437 (1983). The Court should exclude from the fee calculation "hours that were not `reasonably expended,'" such that the "hours that are excessive, redundant, or otherwise unnecessary" are excluded. Id. at 434. "[T]he district court has discretion in determining the amount of a fee award." Id. at 437.
First, the Court accepts the proposition that because Ms. Harrington's counsel did not represent her at the administrative level, they had to familiarize themselves with the record by the time of the appeal at the District Court. The Court acknowledges that reviewing and understanding the record takes time to properly identify whether and to what extent the ALJ committed errors during any part of the five-step sequential evaluation process. The Court also notes that Ms. Harrington's opening brief identified four main arguments with multiple subparts addressing errors at nearly all five steps of the analysis. This, however, still does not justify the hours that Ms. Harrington requests.
The Court notes that the record is only 694 pages long, and 487 of those pages consist of medical records. Some of the records include medical records from 2011, 2012, and early 2013, prior to Ms. Harrington's onset disability. Ms. Harrington claims — and the Court agrees — that the size of the record does not take away from the complexity of the case. Nor does a large record necessarily justify a large fee award. The Court is not persuaded, however, that the amount of hours Ms. Harrington requests in this case is reasonable given the factors noted above. Of particular concern is the amount of time that Ms. Harrington's counsel spent revising the opening and reply briefs of the appeal. Given Ms. Harrington's counsel's claim that she is expert in this type of case, the Court expects less need for revision. Moreover, the cases that Ms. Harrington cites to demonstrate that it was reasonable to award attorneys' fees for time that did not exceed 65 hours with a record of similar size. See Hochgesang v. Colvin, 2015 WL 7288628 (S.D. Ind. 2015) (finding that 59.1 hours (including the brief and reply of the EAJA petition) was reasonable; the record consisted of 547 pages); Townsend v. Colvin, 2014 WL 6617641 (N.D. Ind. 2014); Kinsey-McHenry v. Colvin, 2014 WL 1643455 (N.D. Ind. 2014); Taloff v. Colvin, 2014 WL 868040 (N.D. Ill. 2014); Wirth v. Barnhart, 325 F.Supp.2d 911, (E.D. Wis. 2004). Reducing 7.5 hours from the requested time of 71 hours comes to a total of 63.5
For the reasons stated above, Ms. Harrington's Petition for Attorney Fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act is