United States District Court, S.D. California
ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS' FEES
PURSUANT TO 42 U.S.C. § 406(B) [DOC. 20]
THOMAS J. WHELAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court is Plaintiff's counsel's motion for
attorneys' fees pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 406(b).
[Doc. 20.] Defendant does not oppose. [Doc. 21.] Plaintiff
has not filed a response. The Court decides the matter
without oral argument pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7.1(d)(1).
For the reasons that follow, the Court
GRANTS Plaintiff's counsel's motion
and awards fees in the amount of $22, 000.
Brian Shapiro represented Plaintiff James Truett in his
appeal of an adverse decision of the Social Security
Commissioner denying his claim for disability benefits. Upon
cross-motions for summary judgment, this Court accepted the
Report and Recommendation of Magistrate Judge Major and
remanded the case for further proceedings. (See July 11,
2017 Order [Doc. 20].) On remand, the Commissioner
awarded retroactive benefits totaling $94, 957.40-a net of
$88, 354.88 once deductions are taken into account. (See
Revised Notice of Award [Doc. 20-4] 4.) Mr. Shapiro now
moves for an award of $22, 000 in fees pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 406(b). (Shapiro Mot. [Doc. 20].) Defendant
does not oppose. (Def.'s Non-opp'n [Doc.
21].) Plaintiff has not filed a response.
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, and the Commissioner of Social
Security may, notwithstanding the provisions of section
405(i) of this title, but subject to subsection (d) of this
section, certify the amount of such fee for payment to such
attorney out of, and not in addition to, the amount of such
past-due benefits. In case of any such judgment, no other fee
may be payable or certified for payment for such
representation except as provided in this paragraph.
42 U.S.C. § 406(b)(1)(A). “Congress . . . designed
§ 406(b) to control, not to displace, fee agreements
between Social Security benefits claimants and their
counsel.” Gisbrecht v. Barnhart, 535
U.S. 789, 793 (2002). “In many cases, . . . the Equal
Access to Justice Act (EAJA), enacted in 1980, effectively
increases the portion of past-due benefits the successful
Social Security claimant may pocket.” Id. at
796 (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2412). “Congress
harmonized fees payable by the Government under EAJA with
fees payable under § 406(b) out of the claimant's
past-due Social Security benefits in this manner: Fee awards
may be made under both prescriptions, but the claimant's
attorney must ‘refun[d] to the claimant the amount of
the smaller fee.' ” Id. (quoting Act of
Aug. 5, 1985, Pub. L. 99-80, § 3, 99 Stat. 186).
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. In making this
determination, the Court first looks to the agreement between
the parties, then may reduce the award depending on
“the character of the representation and the results
the representative achieved.” Id. at 807-08.
Plaintiff employed Mr. Shapiro, he agreed to a contingency
fee arrangement of 25% of past-due benefits awarded. (See
Truett Agreement [Doc. 20-2].) Mr. Shapiro now seeks
fees of $22, 000. (Shapiro Mot. [Doc. 20-1] 3:3.)
This amounts to approximately 24.9% of the $88, 354.88 net
underpayment awarded on remand. (See Revised Notice of
Award [Doc. 20-4] 4.)
Shapiro meets his burden of demonstrating that the fees
requested are reasonable. See Crawford v. Astrue,
586 F.3d 1142, 1151 (9th Cir. 2009) (applying
Gisbrecht, 535 U.S. at 808). First, there is nothing
to suggest that the quality of Mr. Shapiro's work was
substandard. He achieved favorable results for his client and
recovered substantial past-due benefits for Mr. Truett.
Second, no reduction for unreasonable delay is warranted.
See id. at 1151-52. Third, the amount of the fees is
not excessive. Even though Mr. Shapiro worked only 12.3 hours
on this case, which yields a high hourly rate of $1, 788.62,
this figure compensates Shapiro for the risk he took in
working the case on a contingent fee. (See Shapiro
Invoice [Doc. 20-5].) See id. at 1145-54
(reversing three award reductions that had begun with a
lodestar calculation rather than using the agreed-upon
percentage as a starting point) (“To aid the district
court's evaluation of his request, Shapiro noted that the
fee he requested was equivalent to 3.55 times the lodestar
calculation and reasonably accounted for the risk he assumed
in representing his client on a contingent-fee basis.”)
Had there been no recovery, Mr. Shapiro would have received
no fee. (See Truett Agreement [Doc. 20-2].)
light of the character of Mr. Shapiro's representation
and the favorable results achieved, the figure is a
reasonable one, and no downward adjustment is appropriate.
See Gisbrecht 535 U.S. at 808.