United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
T. ERWIN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Plaintiff’s Motion for
Attorney Fees Under 42 U.S.C. § 406(b), seeking an
attorney fee in the total amount of $19, 750.00,
which is less than the amount counsel could request .
See ECF Nos. 30 and 31. The Commissioner has
responded with no objections. (ECF No. 33)
Stephen Alan Crissinger retained Casey L. Saunders to appeal
the SSA denial of his application for disability insurance
benefits. (ECF No. 24-2). The contract between Mr. Crissinger
and Casey L. Saunders provided for payment of an attorney fee
contingent upon Mr. Crissinger prevailing before the federal
court and ultimately being awarded benefits by the SSA. Under
the contract, Mr. Crissinger agreed to an attorney fee in the
amount of twenty-five percent (25%) of any past-due benefits
awarded. See supra.
prevailed in federal court. In an Order and Judgment dated
May 30, 2017, the Court reversed the decision of the SSA and
remanded the case for further administrative findings. (ECF
Nos. 21 and 22). On remand, Plaintiff was awarded past-due
benefits of $155, 012.50 from which the SSA withheld $6,
000.00 for payment to Mr. Crissinger’s lawyer.
See ECF No. 28-1:4. Pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§406(b), and citing the contractual agreement between
the parties and Gisbrecht v. Barnhart, Plaintiff
requests an attorney fee award in the total amount of $19,
750.00 which represents an amount less than twenty-five
percent (25%) of the past-due benefits awarded. (ECF No. 31:8
FEES FOR REPRESENTATION
has prescribed specific limitations on the amount of fees
which may be awarded for representation of Social Security
claims. See 42 U.S.C. § 406. Section 406
“deals with the administrative and judicial review
stages discretely: § 406(a) governs fees for
representation in administrative proceedings; § 406(b)
controls fees for representation in court.”
Gisbrecht v. Barnhart, 535 U.S. 789, 794 (2002).
Subsection 406(b) provides:
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. .
U.S.C. § 406(b)(1)(A). Any such payment must be made
“out of, and not in addition to, ” the past-due
benefits owed to the claimant. Id. 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. at 789. For a fee
request that lies within this boundary, “the attorney
for the successful claimant” still “must show
that the fee sought is reasonable for the services
rendered.” Id. If attorney fees are also
awarded under EAJA, Plaintiff’s counsel is to refund
the smaller amount to Plaintiff. Weakley v. Bowen,
803 F.2d 575 (10th Cir. 1986).
AWARD OF §406(b) FEES
Saunders has requested §406(b) fees in the amount of
$19, 750.00 and has attached a detailed billing summary
reflecting a total of 5.3 attorney hours at $193.00 per hour
in 2016 and 26.3 attorney hours at $195.00 per hour in 2017,
expended at the judicial level for a total of $6, 151.40.
See ECF No. 24-1. The amount requested does not
exceed twenty-five percent (25%) of the total awarded
past-due benefits. The Court has reviewed the file and finds
this amount of $19, 750.00 to be reasonable.
PLAINTIFF’S AWARD OF ATTORNEY FEES UNDER THE EQUAL
ACCESS TO JUSTICE ACT (EAJA)
December 5, 2017 Plaintiff was awarded EAJA attorney fees in
the amount of $5, 800.00 as the prevailing party. See
ECF No. 27. Plaintiff’s attorney therefore must refund
the lesser of the two fees to ...