United States District Court, D. Arizona
CHARLES R. PYLE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
through counsel has filed a Motion for Attorney Fees Under 42
U.S.C. § 406(b) (Doc. 27, Motion), and a Brief in
Support (Doc. 28). Defendant has filed a Response to the
Motion for Attorney Fees. (Doc. 29). This case is before the
Magistrate Judge based on the parties' consent. (Doc.
March 31, 2015, the Court filed an Order reversing
Defendant's decision denying insurance benefits and
remanding for an award of benefits. (Doc. 21, Order). On
August 30, 2015, the Court filed an Order granting the
parties' Joint Stipulation for an Award of Attorneys'
Fees to Plaintiff pursuant to the Equal Access to Justice Act
(“EAJA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d), in the amount
of $4, 600. (Doc. 26, EAJA Order).
counsel now seeks $10, 000 in attorney's fees for
representing Plaintiff on a contingency fee basis. (Doc. 28
at 2). Plaintiff's counsel has submitted the Contract for
Attorney Representation (Doc. 28-1), the Time Records for the
two attorneys who worked on this case (Doc. 28-2 & 28-3),
and the Notice of Award (Doc. 28-4). Defendant has filed a
Response stating no position or no objection to the §
406(b) Motion. (Doc. 29).
on the Contract for Attorney Representation, Plaintiff
retained counsel and “agree[d] that my attorney shall
charge and receive as the fee an amount equal to twenty-five
percent (25%) of the” past-due benefits award. (Doc.
28-1). Plaintiff was awarded $76, 355 in past due benefits
and the Social Security Administration withheld $19, 088.75
for payment of attorney fees (Doc. 28-4). This amount
constitutes 25% of Plaintiff's past-due benefits.
(Id.). Counsel's requested fee amount of $10,
000 is approximately 13% of the past-due benefits awarded.
(Doc. 28 at 8).
42 U.S.C. § 406(b)(1)(A), when a claimant represented by
counsel has received a favorable judgment, “the court
may determine and allow as part of its judgment a reasonable
fee for such representation, not in excess of 25 percent of
the total of the past-due benefits[.]” The Court
“review[s] for reasonableness” the fee yielded by
contingency fee agreements. Gisbrecht v. Barnhart,
535 U.S. 789, 808-09 (2002). The Court may consider the
character of the representation, the results achieved,
performance, delay, and whether the benefits are in
proportion to the time spent on the case. Crawford v.
Astrue, 586 F.3d 1142, 1151 (9th Cir. 2009).
two attorneys claim 25.2 hours of service on this case in the
federal district court. (Doc. 28 at 10, Doc. 28-2 & Doc.
28-3). This results in an hourly rate of $396.83 based on the
requested $10, 000 fee amount. (Doc. 28 at 10). The
non-contingent hourly rate of Plaintiff's attorney Meghan
Miller is $250. (Id.). The Court has considered
counsel's successful representation of Plaintiff, any
delay in the proceedings, the contingency fee agreement, and
the risk inherent in a contingency fee arrangement.
reversing the decision of the Commissioner and ordering an
award of benefits to Plaintiff, the Court found that the ALJ
erred in the evaluation of the opinions of Plaintiff's
treating physician. The ALJ's decision was unsupported by
substantial evidence and based on legal error.
counsel sought one extension of time regarding the filing of
the legal memorandum in the proceedings before this Court.
Plaintiff's Opening Brief was timely filed. (Doc. 14-16).
The record provides no reason for a reduction in the
requested fees award on the basis of the character of
counsel's representation, the results achieved, or delay
in the proceedings attributable to Plaintiff's counsel.
record does not suggest any reason to question the propriety
of the contingency fee agreement in this case. There is no
showing that the fees requested exceed the twenty-five
percent cap. The Court is mindful of the contingent-fee
nature of this case and the risk imposed on counsel in
agreeing to represent Plaintiff under such terms.
district court may reduce a § 406(b) award if
“benefits ... are not in proportion to the time spent
on the case.” Crawford, 586 F.3d at 1151
(citing Gisbrecht, 535 U.S. at 808). “If the
benefits are large in comparison to the amount of time
counsel spent on the case, a downward adjustment is ... in
order.” Gisbrecht, 535 U.S. at 808. The fee
sought must be reasonable “for the services
rendered.” Id. at 807. The reviewing court
should not allow a “windfall.” Id. at
noted in Gisbrecht, “§ 406(b) does not
displace contingent-fee agreements as the primary means by
which fees are set for successfully representing Social
Security benefits claimants in court.”
Gisbrecht, 535 U.S. at 807 However, “§
406(b) calls for court review of such arrangements as an
independent check, to assure that they yield reasonable
results in particular cases.” Id. (footnote
Court, in its discretion and taking into account
counsel's risk involved in the contingency fee
arrangement in this case, finds that counsel's request
for $10, 000 is a reasonable fee amount. Plaintiff's
attorney's Motion for attorney fees will be granted.
Plaintiffs counsel shall refund to Plaintiff the lesser of
the fees awarded under 42 U.S.C. § 406(b) and the Equal
Access to Justice Act.
IT IS ORDERED that Plaintiffs Attorney's Motion for
Attorney Fees Under 42 U.S.C. § 406(b) (Doc. 27) is
granted to the extent that ...