Norris v. Social Security Administration, Commissioner
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING 13 MOTION for Attorney Fees in the amount of $5,164.00 to be paid out of Plaintiff's past-due benefits. Signed by Judge R David Proctor on 6/27/2017. (JLC)
2017 Jun-27 PM 01:53
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting
Commissioner of Social Security,
Case No.: 1:11-cv-03154-RDP
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
This case is before the court on Plaintiff’s Motion and Petition for Authorization of
Attorney’s Fees (Doc. # 13). Plaintiff requests approval of $5,164.00 as attorney fees for legal
services rendered to Plaintiff in connection with his claim before this court. Defendant does not
oppose Plaintiff’s Motion for attorney’s fees in this amount. (Doc. # 15). There being no
objection to the award and for the reasons outlined below, Plaintiff’s Motion (Doc. # 13) is due
to be granted.
A court may award a reasonable fee of up to twenty-five percent of past-due benefits to a
successful plaintiff’s attorney as compensation for representation. 42 U.S.C. § 406(b)(1)(A).
The fee award is deducted from the plaintiff’s past-due benefits. However, a court must review
contingency-fee arrangements between an attorney and a plaintiff within the twenty-five percent
boundary to ensure that the contingency fee is for a reasonable amount. Gisbrecht v. Barnhart,
535 U.S. 789, 807 (2002). The Supreme Court in Gisbrecht noted certain factors that courts
should consider when determining the reasonableness of a § 406(b) fee, such as the character of
the attorney’s representation, the results achieved, and whether the attorney was responsible for
any delay. Id. at 808. Section 406(b) does not displace contingency-fee arrangements that are
within the statutory ceiling, but if the fee award is “large in comparison to the amount of time
counsel spent on the case, a downward adjustment is  in order.” Id. at 808-09. “Cases decided
since Gisbrecht have generally been deferential to the terms of contingent fee contracts,
accepting de facto hourly rates that exceed those for non-contingent fee cases.” See, e.g., Horne
v. Astrue, 2011 WL 6258837, at *3 (N.D. Fla. Nov. 8, 2011).
Plaintiff and her attorney entered into a fee agreement that called for a fee of twenty-five
percent of Plaintiff’s past-due benefits. (Doc. # 13-3). The Secretary initially withheld
$10,464.00, which is equal to 25% of Plaintiff’s total past-due benefits. (Doc. # 13-1). EAJA
fees of $5,300.00 have been previously paid to Plaintiff’s counsel. (Doc. # 13-1).
Plaintiff’s counsel has spent a total of 20.2 hours representing Plaintiff in connection with
her claim for Social Security Disability Benefits before this court, not including time spent
before the Administrative Law Judge and Appeals Council. (Docs. # 13 at 2, 13-2).
The current Petition seeks approval of an additional $5,164.00 fee in this matter. This
amount does not exceed 25% of Plaintiff’s total past-due benefits and comports with the
contingency-fee agreement. Importantly, Defendant does not oppose this petition for attorney’s
fees. (Doc. # 15).
Therefore, Plaintiff’s Motion (Doc. # 13) is GRANTED and Plaintiff’s counsel is
AWARDED $5,164.00 to be paid out of Plaintiff’s past-due benefits.
DONE and ORDERED this June 27, 2017.
R. DAVID PROCTOR
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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