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 award
in the amount of $14, 339.63. (ECF No. 38). The Commissioner
has responded to the § 406(b) motion. The Commissioner
takes no position on this request, but rather he defers to
the Court's sound discretion as to the reasonableness of
the requested fee award. See ECF No. 39.
Marcy Ellen Beckett retained Troutman and Troutman, PC., to
appeal the SSA denial of her application for disability
insurance benefits. (ECF No. 38-1). The contract between Ms.
Beckett and Troutman and Troutman, PC., provided for payment
of an attorney fee contingent upon Ms. Beckett prevailing
before the federal court and ultimately being awarded
benefits by the SSA. Under the contract, Ms. Beckett agreed
to an attorney fee in the amount of twenty-five percent (25%)
of any past-due benefits awarded. See id.
prevailed in federal court. In an Order and Judgment dated
April 24, 2018, the Court reversed the decision of the SSA
and remanded the case for further administrative findings.
(ECF Nos. 30 & 31). On remand, Plaintiff was awarded
past-due benefits from which the SSA withheld $14, 339.63,
representing twenty-five percent (25%) of the total past due
benefit. (ECF No. 38-2:3). Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
406(b), and citing the contractual agreement between the
parties and Gisbrecht v. Barnhart, Plaintiff
requests a fee award in the amount of $14, 339.63. (ECF No.
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:
Whenever 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). 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
and Troutman, PC. has requested § 406(b) fees in the
amount of $14, 339.63 and has attached a detailed billing
summary reflecting a total of 37.50 hours (4.2
paralegal/intern hours and 33.3 attorney hours) with a total
hourly fee of $7.064.10. See ECF No. 38-4. Even
though the amount requested is more than the hourly fee
reflected in the invoice, the amount requested does not
exceed twenty-five percent (25%) which would equal $14,
339.63 of the total awarded past-due benefits, and is,
therefore, in line with both the contractual agreement and
§ 406(b). The Court has reviewed the file and finds this
amount to be reasonable.
PLAINTIFF'S AWARD OF ATTORNEY FEES UNDER THE EQUAL ACCESS
TO JUSTICE ACT (EAJA)
August 21, 2018, Plaintiff was awarded EAJA attorney fees in
the amount of $7, 064.10 as the prevailing party.
See ECF No. 34. Plaintiff's attorney therefore
must refund the lesser of the two fees to ...