United States District Court, S.D. California
ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR ATTORNEY'S FEES [DOC.
Michael M. Anello United States District Judge.
C. Shapiro, counsel for Plaintiff Kyla Lynn Richardson, moves
for the award of attorney's fees pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 406(b) in the amount of $20, 417.00 from
Plaintiff's recovery of $81, 668.00 in past-due social
security benefits. See Doc. No. 21. Plaintiff has
not responded to Counsel Shapiro's request, and the
Social Security Administration Commissioner
(“Commissioner”) does not take a position on the
reasonableness of the requested amount. See Doc.
No. 22. The Court found this matter suitable for
determination on the papers and without oral argument
pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7.1(d)(1). For the reasons set
forth below, the Court GRANTS the motion for
1, 2015, Plaintiff filed this social security appeal
challenging the denial of her application for disability
insurance benefits. See Doc. No. 1. The parties then
filed cross-motions for summary judgment. See Doc.
Nos. 11, 12. The assigned magistrate judge issued a Report
recommending that the Court grant Plaintiff's motion for
summary judgment, which the Commissioner filed objections to.
See Doc. Nos. 14, 15. The Court adopted the
magistrate judge's Report and Recommendation, granted
Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, denied the
Commissioner's motion for summary judgment, and overruled
the Commissioner's objections. See Doc. No. 17.
The Court remanded the case for the calculation and award of
benefits to Plaintiff. See Doc. No. 17.
parties then jointly moved the Court for attorney's fees
and expenses in the amount of $4, 750.00 pursuant to the
Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d).
See Doc. No. 19. The Court granted the joint motion.
See Doc. No. 20. On remand, the Commissioner awarded
Plaintiff $81, 668.00 in retroactive social security
pursuant to a contingency fee agreement between Plaintiff and
her attorney, counsel requests the Court order the payment of
attorney's fees in the amount of $20, 417.00, and
reimburse Plaintiff in the amount of $4, 750.00 for EAJA fees
previously paid by the Commissioner.
42 U.S.C. § 406(b), a court entering judgment in favor
of [a social security] claimant who was represented by an
attorney ‘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.'” Crawford v. Astrue, 586 F.3d
1142, 1147 (9th Cir. 2009) (en banc) (quoting §
406(b)(1)(A)). “Within the 25 percent boundary, . . .
the attorney for the successful claimant must show that the
fee sought is reasonable for the services rendered.”
Gisbrecht, 535 U.S. at 807.
district court charged with determining a reasonable fee
award under § 406(b)(1)(A) must respect ‘the
primacy of lawful attorney-client fee agreements, ' . . .
‘looking first to the contingent-fee agreement, then
testing it for reasonableness.'” Crawford,
586 F.3d at 1148 (quoting Gisbrecht, 535 U.S. at
793, 808). When determining reasonableness, the court must
consider “whether the amount need be reduced, not
whether the loadstar amount should be enhanced.”
Id. at 1149. While there is not a definitive list of
factors, courts should consider “the character of the
representation and the results the representative
achieved.” Gisbrecht, 533 U.S. at 808.
“The court may properly reduce the fee for substandard
performance, delay, or benefits that are not in proportion to
the time spent on the case.” Crawford, 586
F.3d at 1151.
any fee award under § 406 must be offset by any award of
attorney's fees granted under the EAJA. 28 U.S.C. §
2412; Gisbrecht, 535 U.S. at 796.
agreement between Plaintiff and the Law Offices of Lawrence
D. Rohlfing dated May 19, 2015, Plaintiff agreed to pay
counsel 25% of any past-due benefits awarded by the
Commissioner. See Doc. Nos. 21-1, 21-2. The parties
entered into this agreement prior to filing this appeal, and
there is nothing in the record to suggest the agreement was
reached by improper means. Counsel for Plaintiff spent 26.5
hours on this case, resulting in this Court's order
remanding the case for further administrative proceedings and
ultimately a favorable decision on remand. Plaintiff received
an award of $81, 668.00 in retroactive benefits.
Plaintiff's counsel seeks $20, 417.00 in attorney's
fees, which constitutes 25% of the past-due award of $81,
668.00, and which is a proper amount under §
Court finds there is no proper basis to reduce the award, and
it is reasonable. There is nothing in the record to suggest
substandard performance, delay, or a disproportionate amount
of time spent on this case relevant to the benefits at stake.
As a result of counsel's work, Plaintiff received a
highly favorable decision and a significant award of past-due
benefits. Finally, the effective hourly rate is approximately
$770, which is within the range of rates awarded by some
courts. See Crawford, 586 F.3d at 1153 (approving
effective hourly rates of $519, $875, and $902); see,
e.g., Likens v. Colvin, No. 11CV0407-LAB (BGS), 2014 WL
6810657, at *2 (S.D. Cal. Dec. 2, 2014) (effective hourly
rate of $666.68 per hour); Nash v. Colvin, No.
12CV2781-GPC (RBB), 2014 WL 5801353, at *2 (S.D. Cal. Nov. 7,
2014) (effective hourly rate of $656 per hour); Sproul v.
Astrue, No. 11CV1000-IEG (DHB), 2013 WL 394056, at *2