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 $4, 967, 58 which is less than the amount
counsel could request. (ECF No. 29). The Commissioner has not
Carrie Rodriguez retained Troutman and Troutman, PC., to
appeal the SSA denial of her application for disability
insurance benefits. (ECF No. 29-1). The contract between Ms.
Rodriguez and Troutman and Troutman, PC., provided for
payment of an attorney fee contingent upon Ms. Rodriguez
prevailing before the federal court and ultimately being
awarded benefits by the SSA. Under the contract, Ms.
Rodriguez agreed to an attorney fee in the amount of
twenty-five percent (25%) of any past-due benefits awarded.
prevailed in federal court. In an Order and Judgment dated
October 10, 2017, the Court reversed the decision of the SSA
and remanded the case for further administrative findings.
(ECF Nos. 23 & 24). On remand, Plaintiff was awarded
past-due benefits of $24, 801.50 from which the SSA withheld
$6, 200.38, representing twenty-five percent (25%) of the
total past due benefit. (ECF No. 29-2:2). 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 $4, 967.58.
(ECF No. 29).
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. .
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 $4, 967.58, and has attached a detailed billing
summary reflecting a total of 25.8 hours (3.7
paralegal/intern hours and 22.1 attorney hours). However, the
amount requested does not exceed twenty-five percent (25%) of
the total awarded past-due benefits, which would equal $6,
200.38 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)
March 7, 2018 Plaintiff was awarded EAJA attorney fees in the
amount of $4, 767.20 as the prevailing party. See
ECF No. 25. Plaintiff's attorney therefore must refund
the lesser of the two fees to ...