The opinion of the court was delivered by: Margaret A. Nagle United States Magistrate Judge
ORDER RE: PETITION FOR ATTORNEY FEES PURSUANT TO 42 U.S.C. § 1383(d)(2)(A)
On April 15, 2009, counsel for plaintiff filed a Petition to Charge and Receive a Fee Under 42 U.S.C. § 406(b)*fn1, with a supporting memorandum of points and authorities and declaration by plaintiff's counsel, Joel D. Leidner of Leidner & Leidner, A.P.C. (collectively, the "Petition"). The Petition requests payment of attorney's fees in the total amount of $12,977.96 for 29.10 hours of attorney time expended before this Court. On April 24, 2009, defendant submitted a Response to Plaintiff's Counsel's Motion for Attorney Fees Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1383(d)(2)(A). On April 24, 2009, plaintiff's counsel filed a Response to Defendant's Response to Petition to Charge and Receive a Fee Under 42 U.S.C. § 1383(d)(2)(A). For the reasons stated below, the Petition is GRANTED.
Plaintiff's counsel represented plaintiff before the United States District Court pursuant to a contingency fee agreement ("Agreement"), which provides for attorney's fees of "25% of the past due benefits, reduced by any Equal Access to Justice Act fees that my attorney receives." (Petition at 2, Exhibit B.) On September 19, 2008, the Court remanded this case for the immediate payment of benefits. (Petition at 3.) Plaintiff was subsequently awarded $51,911.85 in retroactive benefits. (Exhibit A.)
Section 406(b) of Title 42 provides:
Whenever a court renders a judgment favorable to a claimant... 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.... In case of any such judgment, no other fee may be payable... for such representation except as provided in this paragraph.
42 U.S.C. § 406(b)(1)(A).*fn2
In Gisbrecht v. Barnhart, 535 U.S. 789 (2002), the Supreme Court held that Section 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. Rather, § 406(b) calls for court review of such arrangements as an independent check, to assure that they yield reasonable results in particular cases. Congress has provided one boundary line: Agreements are unenforceable to the extent that they provide for fees exceeding 25 percent of the past-due benefits. Within this 25 percent boundary... the attorney for the successful claimant must show that the fee sought is reasonable for the services rendered.
Id. at 807 (citations omitted).
The hours spent by counsel representing the claimant and counsel's "normal hourly billing charge for non-contingent-fee cases" may aid "the court's assessment of the reasonableness of the fee yielded by the fee agreement." Gisbrecht, 535 U.S. at 808. The Court appropriately may reduce counsel's recovery based on the character of the representation and the results the representative achieved. If the attorney is responsible for delay, for example, a reduction is in order so that the attorney will not profit from the accumulation of benefits during the pendency of the case in court. If the benefits are large in comparison to the amount of time counsel spent on the case, a downward adjustment is similarly in order.
Significantly, since Gisbrecht, district courts have been deferential to the terms of contingency contracts in Section 406(b) cases, recognizing that the resulting de facto hourly rates typically exceed those for non-contingency fee arrangements. See Ellick v. Barnhart, 445 F. Supp. 2d, 1166, 1169-71 (C.D. Cal. 2006)(surveying post-Gisbrecht cases and finding decisions approving fee awards involving range of net hourly rates of up to $982 per hour); Hearn v. Barnhart, 262 F. Supp. 2d 1033, 1037 (N.D. Cal. 2003)(awarding $25,132.50 in Section 406(b) fees, equivalent to $450 per hour, and citing, inter alia, Martin v. Barnhart, 225 F. Supp. 2d 704 (W.D. Va. 2002)(awarding $10,189.50, equivalent to $605 per hour), and Coppett v. Barnhart, 242 F. Supp. 2d 1380 (S.D. Ga. 2002)(awarding $6,554.12, equivalent to $350.49 per hour)); see also Mudd v. Barnhart, 418 F.3d 424, 427 (4th Cir. 2005)(affirming denial of motion challenging $12,231.50 fee award equivalent to 25% of past benefits and hourly rate of $736.84); Blizzard v. Astrue, 496 F. Supp. 2d 320, 324 (S.D.N.Y. 2007)(approving $26,798.25 fee award equaling ...