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Kanoff v. Berryhill

United States District Court, C.D. California

July 2, 2019

MATTHEW KYLE KANOFF, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER AWARDING ATTORNEY FEES PURSUANT TO 42 U.S.C. §406(B)

          FREDERICK F. MUMM UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         After remand, the Social Security Administration (“Defendant”) awarded plaintiff Matthew Kyle Kanoff (“Plaintiff”) $97, 088 in past-due benefits. Now pending before the Court is the petition of Plaintiff's counsel for attorney fees in the amount of $17, 000.00 for Plaintiff's representation in this matter.

         Defendant has filed a response to Plaintiff's motion that neither opposes nor assents to the relief requested by counsel. After careful consideration, the Court finds in this case that the $17, 000 requested for 18.8 hours of attorney time and 3.5 hours of paralegal time is reasonable.

         II. DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS

         Plaintiff's counsel brings this petition pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §406(b). Section 406(b) provides in relevant part:

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 . . . .

         In Gisbrecht, the Supreme Court resolved a division among the federal circuits on the appropriate method of calculating attorney fees under §406(b). Rejecting the “lodestar method” which several of the circuits (including the Ninth Circuit) had been applying, the Supreme Court held:

[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 the 25 percent boundary, . . . the attorney for the successful claimant must show that the fee sought is reasonable for the services rendered.

535 U.S. at 807 (footnotes omitted).

         In determining whether the amount of fees sought by Plaintiff's counsel is “reasonable for the services rendered” here, the Court has considered a number of factors. Several of these factors fall in favor of Plaintiff's counsel.

         Under Gisbrecht, the starting point of the analysis is the agreement between Plaintiff and his counsel. Here, the relevant terms of the contingent fee agreement between Plaintiff and Plaintiff's counsel are as follows:

If this matter requires judicial review of any adverse decision of the Social Security Administration, the fee for successful prosecution of this matter is a separate 25% of the backpay awarded upon reversal ofany unfavorable ...

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