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Talamantes-Lopez v. Berryhill

United States District Court, C.D. California

May 22, 2018

ROSA TALAMANTES-LOPEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL,[1] Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR ATTORNEY FEES PURSUANT TO 42 U.S.C. § 406(B)

          HONORABLE KENLY KIYA KATO United States Magistrate Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Rosa Talamantes-Lopez (“Plaintiff's”) counsel, Monica Perales of the Law Offices of Lawrence D. Rohlfing (“Counsel”), filed a Motion for Attorney Fees Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 406(b) (“Motion”). The Motion seeks an award in the amount of $15, 702.00 for representing Plaintiff in an action to obtain disability insurance benefits and supplemental social security income with a refund to Plaintiff of $2, 500.00 for the Equal Access to Justice Act (“EAJA”) fees previously awarded.

         The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). For the reasons stated below, the Court grants the Motion.

         II. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

         On June 1, 2015, Plaintiff filed the Complaint in this action. See ECF Docket No. (“Dkt.”) 1, Compl. Plaintiff alleged the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“Defendant”) improperly denied Plaintiff's applications for disability insurance benefits and supplemental social security income. Id. at 2. On February 26, 2016, the Court found Defendant erred in denying Plaintiff benefits and entered Judgment reversing and remanding the case to Defendant for further administrative proceedings. Dkt. 19, Judgment.

         On May 6, 2016, the Court issued an order approving the Parties' stipulation for award of EAJA fees to Counsel in the amount of $2, 500.00. Dkt. 21, Order Granting EAJA Fees.

         On remand, Defendant stated she would withhold $15, 702.00 as twenty-five percent of Plaintiff's past due benefits “to pay the approved representative's fee.” Dkt. 22-3, Notice of Award at 3.

         On May 1, 2018, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 406(b) (“Section 406(b)”), Counsel filed the instant Motion seeking the amount of $15, 702.00 for representing Plaintiff in the underlying proceedings before the Court. Dkt. 22, Mot. at 1. Counsel states 24.35 hours of attorney time and 4.10 hours of paralegal time were expended on Plaintiff's case, Dkt. 22-4, Itemized Hours, and seeks compensation pursuant to a contingency fee agreement stating Counsel would receive “25% of the backpay awarded upon reversal of an unfavorable ALJ decision, ” Dkt. 22-1, Contingency Fee Agreement. Additionally, Counsel seeks an order to “reimburse [Plaintiff] the amount of $2, 500.00 for EAJA fees previously paid by the Commissioner.” Dkt. 22, Mot. at 1.

         On May 1, 2018, Plaintiff was served with the Motion and informed she had a right to file a response to the Motion. Dkt. 22, Mot. at 2, 11. However, Plaintiff failed to file a response. On May 14, 2018, Defendant filed a Response to the Motion stating she has “no objection to the fee.” Dkt. 23, Response at 2. Thus, the Court deems this matter submitted.

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. APPLICABLE LAW

         Pursuant to Section 406(b):

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 . . . certify the amount ...

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