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Nolan v. Astrue

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT CENTRAL DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS - SPRINGFIELD DIVISION


February 26, 2010

MICHAEL NOLAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Charles H. Evans United States Magistrate Judge

OPINION

CHARLES H. EVANS, U. S. Magistrate Judge

This matter comes before the Court on the Plaintiff's Application for Brief in Support of Relief Under the Equal Access to Justice Act Pursuant to Sentence Four Remand (d/e 26). The Commissioner does not object to an award of attorney fees to Plaintiff Michael Nolan under the Equal Access to Justice Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d). Opposition to Plaintiff's Application for Brief in Support of Relief Under the Equal Access to Justice Act Pursuant to Sentence Four Remand (d/e 27) (Opposition), at 1. The Commissioner objects to $172.85 of the $3,007.59 fee request because the work was essentially clerical. The Court agrees. The Court, therefore, will allow an award of attorney fees in the sum of $2,834.74.

The Commissioner also objects to the request to direct payment of the fee award to Plaintiff's counsel instead of the Plaintiff. The Court again agrees. The statute authorizes an award of attorney fees to the prevailing party, not the party's counsel. 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d). The Commissioner notes a conflict in the Circuits on this issue and that the Seventh Circuit has not addressed the issue. Opposition, at 2, citing Stephens v. Astrue, 565 F.3d 131, 138 (4th Cir. 2009); Bryant v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 578 F.3d 443, 448 (6th Cir. 2009); Manning v. Astrue, 510 F.3d 1246, 1255-56 (10th Cir. 2007)(fees to be paid to party); contra, Ratliff v. Astrue, 540 F.3d 800, 801 (8th Cir. 2008), cert. granted, __ U.S.__, 130 S.Ct. 48 (Sept. 30, 2009) (fees to be paid to the attorney for party).

The Court has reviewed the cases and believes that the plain language of the statute authorizes an award to the party, not the party's counsel.

THEREFORE, Plaintiff's Application for Brief in Support of Relief Under the Equal Access to Justice Act Pursuant to Sentence Four Remand (d/e 26) is ALLOWED in part. The Court awards the Plaintiff Michael Nolan attorney fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act in the sum of $2,834.74.

20100226

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