Coursey v. Commissioner of Social Security, No. 16-5336 (6th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
Coursey’s application for Social Security benefits was denied. He sought judicial review. The district court granted a joint motion to reverse the decision. Coursey sought attorney fees. Although the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), 28 U.S.C. 2412, sets the presumptive maximum hourly rate an attorney may recover at $125. Coursey sought $185.18 per hour. Coursey submitted the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index (CPI), which documents that the statutory amount would, when adjusted for the cost of living in the Midwest in 2015, be the equivalent of $185.18. The court concluded that the CPI and the attorney's affidavit were insufficient to justify the requested rate and approved an award of $140 per hour, consistent with recent cases in the district awarding that amount for EAJA attorney-fee requests in Social Security cases. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. A plaintiff seeking an attorney’s fee of greater than $125 per hour must show by competent evidence that the cost of living justifies a higher rate and that the fee is “in line with those prevailing in the community for similar services by lawyers of reasonably comparable skill, experience, and reputation.” The court properly relied on evidence, judicial findings in previous cases, that the prevailing market rate for similar services within its venue was $140 per hour.