United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
LORRIE M. FREDRICK, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
CHARLES B. GOODWIN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's counsel Kyle J.
Saunders' motion for an award of attorney's fees in
the amount of $8, 100.00 under 42 U.S.C. § 406(b).
Saunders' Mot. (Doc. No. 30) at 1-3. Defendant does
not oppose the requested amount, provided that Mr. Saunders
refunds Plaintiff the $4, 845.00 that this Court previously
awarded under 28 U.S.C. § 2412. Def.'s Resp. (Doc.
No. 33) at 1; see Order of Apr. 25, 2016 (Doc. No.
27) at 1-2; Weakley v. Bowen, 803 F.2d 575, 580
(10th Cir. 1986).
March 22, 2016, the Court entered Judgment reversing the
Acting Commissioner's final decision denying
Plaintiff's application for disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) and remanding this case for further
administrative proceedings under the fourth sentence of 42
U.S.C. § 405(g). On February 10, 2017, an Administrative
Law Judge (“ALJ”) issued a “fully
favorable” decision finding Plaintiff disabled
beginning on June 24, 2011. See Saunders' Mot.
Ex. 1 (Doc. No. 30-1) at 1, 8-13. The Acting Commissioner
awarded Plaintiff $56, 734.00 in past-due benefits, and has
withheld 25 percent of that amount to pay attorney's fees
under 42 U.S.C. § 406. See Saunders' Mot.
Ex. 2 (Doc. No. 30-2) at 2-3.
406(b) provides that “[w]henever a court renders a
judgment favorable to a claimant under this subchapter who
was represented before the court by an attorney, 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 to which the claimant is
entitled by reason of such judgment . . . .” 42 U.S.C.
§ 406(b)(1)(A). This subsection “does not displace
contingent-fee agreements as the primary means by which fees
are set for successfully representing Social Security
benefits claimants in court” so long as the agreed-upon
amount stays within the statute's “25 percent
boundary.” Gisbrecht v. Barnhart, 535 U.S.
789, 807 (2002). “[T]he attorney for the successful
claimant must show that the fee sought is reasonable for the
services rendered” in the particular case. Id.
and Mr. Saunders agreed that Mr. Saunders may collect
attorney's fees “for representation before the
court” in an amount equal to 25 percent “of the
past-due benefits resulting from” Plaintiff's
claim. See Saunders' Br. in Supp. Ex. 1 (Doc.
No. 31-1) at 1. Mr. Saunders has submitted a statement
showing that he spent 25.50 hours litigating Plaintiff's
case in federal court, which results in an effective hourly
rate of $317.64. Saunders' Br. in Supp. Ex. 3 (Doc. No.
31-3) at 1-2; see Gisbrecht, 535 U.S. at 793, 808
(rejecting the “lodestar” method of calculating
fee awards under § 406(b), but noting that the district
court may consider this information in contingency-fee cases
to help them assess “the reasonableness of the fee
yielded by the fee agreement”). This straight-forward
case was resolved fairly quickly on Defendant's unopposed
motion for sentence-four remand. Def.'s Mot. Remand (Doc.
No. 21) at 1-3; Order of Mar. 22, 2016 (Doc. No. 22) at 1.
Still, Mr. Saunders had to spend time reviewing the
administrative record, and his opening brief presented a
well-supported argument that the ALJ erred in denying
Plaintiff's DIB claim. See generally Pl.'s
Br. (Doc. No. 15) at 1-12. Mr. Saunders also correctly notes
that his requested fee award is only fourteen percent of the
$56, 734.00 that Plaintiff was awarded in past-due
benefits-considerably less than the agreed-upon contingency
fee. Saunders' Br. in Supp. at 9. Having carefully
reviewed Mr. Saunders' motion and supporting
documentation, the Court finds that $8, 100.00 is a
reasonable fee award for the amount of work performed in this
case. Cf. Cornell v. Berryhill, No. CIV-14-916-C,
2017 WL 1051136, at *1 (W.D. Okla. Mar. 20, 2017) (awarding
$9, 820.50 in attorney's fees for 29.65 hours of work in
Mr. Saunders' motion (Doc. No. 30) is GRANTED, and he is
awarded attorney's fees in the amount of $8, 100.00. 42
U.S.C. § 406(b). The Acting Commissioner shall pay this
amount directly to Plaintiff's attorney, Kyle J.
Saunders, of The Saunders Law Group, P.C., P.O. Box 1605,
Ada, Oklahoma 74820. Mr. Saunders shall promptly refund to
Plaintiff the $4, 845.00 in attorney's fees that the
Court previously awarded under 28 U.S.C. § 2412. Order
of Apr. 25, 2016 at 2; Weakley, 803 F.2d at 580.
 The Court previously authorized Mr.
Saunders to file a § 406(b) motion within a reasonable
time after receiving the Acting Commissioner's notice
calculating Plaintiff's award of past-due benefits. Order
of Mar. 27, 2017 (Doc. No. 29) at 1-2; see ...