Cynthia Smith v. Michael J Astrue

Filing 31

ORDER RE: "COUNSEL'S MOTION FOR ATTORNEY FEES PURSUANT TO 42 U.S.C. 406(b) by Magistrate Judge Charles F. Eick. Section 406(b) fees are allowed in the gross amount of $5,406.39, to be paid out the sums withheld by the Commissioner from Plaintiff's benefits. Counsel shall reimburse Plaintiff in the amount of $2,000, previously paid by the Government under the Equal Access to Justice Act. (sp)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 CYNTHIA SMITH, ) ) Plaintiff, ) ) v. ) ) CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting ) Commissioner of Social Security, ) ) Defendant. ) ___________________________________) NO. CV 12-2768-E ORDER RE: “COUNSEL’S MOTION FOR ATTORNEY FEES PURSUANT TO 42 U.S.C. § 406(b)” 17 18 On March 12, 2015, counsel for Plaintiff filed “Counsel’s Motion 19 for Attorney Fees Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 406(b)” (“the motion”). 20 person filed timely opposition to the motion. 21 March 12, 2015. 22 No amount of $5,406.39. See Minute Order, filed Counsel for Plaintiff seeks attorneys fees in the 23 BACKGROUND 24 25 26 The Court previously remanded this matter to the Commissioner for 27 further administrative action. The Commissioner subsequently awarded 28 benefits to Plaintiff totaling $37,083. Plaintiff’s counsel 1 represented Plaintiff under a contingent fee agreement providing for 2 fees in the amount of 25 percent of past-due benefits. 3 APPLICABLE LAW 4 5 6 Section 406(b)(1) of Title 42 provides: 7 8 Whenever a court renders a judgment favorable to a claimant 9 . . . who was represented before the court by an attorney, 10 the court may determine and allow as part of its judgment a 11 reasonable fee for such representation, not in excess of 12 25 percent of the total of the past-due benefits to which 13 the claimant is entitled . . . In case of any such judgment, 14 no other fee may be payable . . . for such representation 15 except as provided in this paragraph. 16 406(b)(1)(A). 42 U.S.C. § 17 18 According to the United States Supreme Court, section 406(b) 19 20 does not displace contingent-fee agreements as the primary 21 means by which fees are set for successfully representing 22 Social Security benefits claimants in court. 23 § 406(b) calls for court review of such arrangements as an 24 independent check, to assure that they yield reasonable 25 results in particular cases. 26 boundary line: 27 that they provide for fees exceeding 25 percent of the past- 28 due benefits. Rather, Congress has provided one Agreements are unenforceable to the extent Within this 25 percent boundary . . . the 2 1 attorney for the successful claimant must show that the fee 2 sought is reasonable for the services rendered. 3 v. Barnhart, 535 U.S. 789, 807 (2002) (citations omitted) 4 (“Gisbrecht”). Gisbrecht 5 6 The hours spent by counsel representing the claimant and 7 counsel’s “normal hourly billing charge for noncontingent-fee cases” 8 may aid “the court’s assessment of the reasonableness of the fee 9 yielded by the fee agreement.” 10 Id. at 808. The Court appropriately may reduce counsel’s recovery 11 12 based on the character of the representation and the results 13 the representative achieved. 14 for delay, for example, a reduction is in order so that the 15 attorney will not profit from the accumulation of benefits 16 during the pendency of the case in court. 17 are large in comparison to the amount of time counsel spent 18 on the case, a downward adjustment is similarly in order. If the attorney is responsible If the benefits 19 20 Id. (citations omitted). 21 DISCUSSION 22 23 24 The fee sought does not exceed the agreed-upon 25 percent of 25 past-due benefits. Neither “the character of the representation” nor 26 “the results the representative achieved” suggest the unreasonableness 27 of the fee sought. 28 significant delay in securing Plaintiff’s benefits. Plaintiff’s counsel was not responsible for any 3 Because the 1 present case is legally indistinguishable from Crawford v. Astrue, 2 586 F.3d 1142 (9th Cir. 2009), this Court is unable to find that a 3 comparison of the benefits secured and the time Plaintiff’s counsel 4 spent on the matter suggest the unreasonableness of the fee sought. 5 Therefore, the Court concludes that “the fee sought is reasonable for 6 the services rendered,” within the meaning of Gisbrecht. 7 ORDER 8 9 10 Section 406(b) fees are allowed in the gross amount of $5,406.39, 11 to be paid out of the sums withheld by the Commissioner from 12 Plaintiff’s benefits. 13 of $2,000, previously paid by the Government under the Equal Access to 14 Justice Act. Counsel shall reimburse Plaintiff in the amount 15 16 IT IS SO ORDERED. 17 18 DATED: April 15, 2015. 19 20 21 ______________/S/_______________ CHARLES F. EICK UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 4

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