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Miguel A. v. Saul

United States District Court, C.D. California

December 11, 2019

MIGUEL A.,[1] Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW SAUL,[2] 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 Miguel A. (“Plaintiff”)'s counsel, Denise Bourgeois Haley of the Law Offices of Lawrence D. Rohlfing (“Counsel”), filed a Motion for Attorney Fees (“Motion”) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 406(b) (“Section 406(b)”). The Motion seeks an award of $25, 000.00 for representing Plaintiff in an action to obtain disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income with a refund to Plaintiff of $4, 100.00 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 August 19, 2016, Plaintiff filed the Complaint in this action. ECF Docket No. (“Dkt.”) 1, Compl. Plaintiff alleged the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“Defendant”) improperly denied Plaintiff's application for Title II Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Title XVI Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). Id. On June 4, 2019, the Court entered Judgment reversing the decision of Defendant and remanding the case for further administrative proceedings. Dkt. 40, Order; Dkt. 41, Judgment.

         On July 19, 2019, the Court issued an order approving the parties' stipulation awarding EAJA fees to Counsel in the amount of $4, 100.00. Dkt. 43, Order Approving EAJA Fees.

         On November 18, 2019, Counsel filed the instant Motion pursuant to Section 406(b) seeking attorney fees in the amount of $25, 000.00 with a reimbursement to Plaintiff in the amount of $4, 100.00 for the EAJA fees previously paid. Dkt. 44, Mot. Counsel states 24.6 hours of attorney and paralegal time were spent representing Plaintiff in federal court. Dkt. 44 at 12-13, Declaration of Denise Bourgeois Haley (“Haley Decl.”), ¶ 5. Counsel seeks compensation pursuant to a contingency agreement dated March 3, 2015, which provides if Plaintiff prevails in federal court, Counsel's fee is “a separate 25% of the backpay awarded upon reversal of any unfavorable ALJ decision for work before the court.” Haley Decl., ¶ 2; Dkt., 44-1, Social Security Representation Agreement at ¶ 4.

         On November 19, 2019, Counsel served Plaintiff with the Motion and informed him that he had a right to file a response to the Motion. Dkt. 44 at 14, Proof of Service. Plaintiff has not filed a response.

         On December 2, 2019, Defendant filed a Response to the Motion. Dkt. 45. Defendant “takes no position with regard to the reasonableness” of the requested $25, 000.00 fee. Id. at 5.

         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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