United States District Court, E.D. California
ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS' FEES
PURSUANT TO 42 U.S.C. § 1383(D)(2)(B) (DOC. NO.
BARBARA A. McAULIFFE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
before the Court is Plaintiff's counsel's motion for
attorneys' fees pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§1383(d)(2)(B). (Doc. No. 28). The Commissioner of
Social Security (the “Commissioner”) has filed a
statement of non-opposition to the motion. (Doc. No. 30).
Having reviewed the motion and its supporting documentation,
as well as the case file, the Court GRANTS
the motion and awards attorneys' fees in the amount of
Offices of Lawrence D. Rohlfing entered into a written
contingent fee agreement with Plaintiff on April 2, 2015,
which provided that “[i]n consideration of the services
to be performed by the Attorney and it being the desire of
the Claimant to compensate Attorney out of the proceeds . . .
the fee for successful prosecution of this matter is . . .
25% of the past due benefits awarded upon reversal of any
unfavorable ALJ decision for work before the Social Security
Administration.” (Doc. No. 28-1).
8, 2015, Plaintiff filed this action seeking judicial review
of the Commissioner's denial of benefits. (Doc. No. 1).
On September 16, 2016, the Court issued an order upholding
the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits. (Doc. No.
18.) Plaintiff filed a notice of appeal and, on July 28,
2017, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the
Court's order dated September 16, 2016. (Doc. Nos. 20,
23.) On October 3, 2017, the Court issued an order remanding
this action for further administrative proceedings pursuant
to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). (Doc. No. 25.)
On November 15, 2017, the Court approved the parties'
stipulation to award Plaintiff $9, 450.00 in attorneys'
fees pursuant to the Equal Access to Justice Act, 28 U.S.C.
§ 2412(d). (Doc. No. 27.) On remand, the Commissioner
issued a decision to grant Plaintiff's application for
benefits and, on August 9, 2019, the Commissioner issued a
notice indicating that Plaintiff's retroactive Title XVI
benefits totaled $49, 394.3. (Doc. Nos. 28 at 9, 28-3.)
present Motion, Plaintiff's counsel asks the Court to
find an award of $12, 345.00 reasonable with a credit of $9,
450.00 for the EAJA fees previously paid and direct the
Commissioner to certify the fee of $2, 895.00 for legal fees
incurred in this Court. Plaintiff's counsel contends this
fee is reasonable in light of the services rendered and
results achieved, as counsel prepared and participated in
obtaining a favorable result and the manner and approach to
the case saved time and reduced the accumulation of past-due
benefits. (Doc. No. 28 at 4-6.) The fee counsel seeks is
twenty-five percent of the past-due benefits payable to
Plaintiff. (Id. at 4.) The Commissioner filed a
notice of non-opposition noting no objection to the fee
request. (Doc. No. 30.)
attorney may seek an award of fees for representation of a
Social Security claimant who is awarded benefits:
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 by reason of such judgment. . ..
42 U.S.C. § 406(b)(1)(A); see also Gisbrecht v.
Barnhart, 535 U.S. 789, 794 (2002) (Section 406(b)
controls fees awarded for representation of Social Security
claimants); 42 U.S.C. § 1383(d)(2)(A) (incorporating the
provisions of section 406). A contingency fee agreement is
unenforceable if it provides for fees exceeding twenty-five
percent of past-due benefits. Gisbrecht,
supra, 535 U.S. at 807.
Discussion and Analysis
courts “have been deferential to the terms of
contingency fee contracts § 406(b) cases.”
Hern v. Barnhart, 262 F.Supp.2d 1033, 1037 (N.D.
Cal. 2003). However, the Court must review contingent-fee
arrangements “as an independent check, to assure that
they yield reasonable results in particular cases.”
Gisbrecht, 535 U.S. at 807. In doing so, the Court
should consider “the character of the representation
and the results the representative achieved.”
Id. at 808. In addition, the Court should consider
whether the attorney performed in a substandard manner or
engaged in dilatory conduct or excessive delays, and whether
the fees are “excessively large in relation to the
benefits received.” Crawford v. Astrue, 586
F.3d 1142, 1149 (9th Cir. 2009) (en banc).
case, after carefully considering the fee agreement and the
applicable law, the Court finds Plaintiff's counsel's
requested fees to be reasonable. In support of the motion for
attorneys' fees under 42 U.S.C. § 1383(d)(2)(B),
Plaintiff's counsel attached the contingent fee agreement
which provided for a contingent fee of twenty-five percent of
any awarded retroactive benefits. Plaintiff's counsel
accepted the risk of loss in the representation and expended
a total of 53.35 hours while representing Plaintiff before
the District Court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
(Doc. No. 28 at 9.) As a result of counsel's work, the
matter was remanded for further proceedings before an
Administrative Law Judge, who issued a fully favorable
decision and awarded Plaintiff benefits.
counsel provided a copy of the notice of award and the motion
for attorney's fees to Plaintiff. (Doc. No. 28). Although
served with the motion, Plaintiff did not challenge the
requested fees which attests to their reasonableness.
Likewise, the Commissioner, in its advisory capacity, also
declined to ...