Rodriguez v. Commissioner of Social Security

Filing 26

ORDER Granting Motion for Attorneys' Fees Under 42 USC 406(b) 23 , signed by Magistrate Judge Sandra M. Snyder on 7/28/2011. (Herman, H)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 7 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 8 9 ADELA M. RODRIGUEZ, 10 Plaintiff, 11 12 CASE NO. 1:09-cv-01800-SMS ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS’ FEES UNDER 42 U.S.C. § 406(b) v. MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, Commissioner of Social Security, 13 Defendant. 14 (Doc. 23) / 15 16 Plaintiff moves the Court to grant attorneys’ fees of $11,381.00, under 42 U.S.C. § 17 406(b). Defendant Commissioner has filed a brief taking no position on Plaintiff’s request. 18 Having reviewed the motion and its supporting documentation, as well as the case file, this Court 19 awards the requested attorneys’ fees. 20 I. Legal and Factual Background 21 On September 11, 2009, Plaintiff and attorney Young Cho of the Law Offices of 22 Lawrence D. Rohlfing (“attorneys”) entered a contingent fee agreement, providing payment to 23 attorneys of twenty-five per cent of Plaintiff’s past due benefits in the event the case was won. 24 On October 10, 2009, Plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court appealing Defendant’s denial of 25 her application for disability insurance benefits. By a judgment entered April 8, 2011, this Court 26 reversed Defendant’s denial of benefits and remanded for payment of benefits. 27 /// 28 1 1 On April 21, 2011, the agency notified Plaintiff of the award of monthly disability 2 benefits beginning in December 2006. Twenty-five per cent of Plaintiff’s past due benefit total of 3 $45,526.00 equals $11,381.50. Previously, the Court awarded and ordered paid to Plaintiff a fee 4 of $4500.00 under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA). Plaintiff now requests attorneys’ 5 fees of $11,381.00. 6 II. 7 Discussion Whenever a court renders 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 . . . . . 8 9 10 42 U.S.C. § 406(b)(1(A). 11 The Court must review contingent-fee arrangements “as an independent check, to assure 12 that they yield reasonable results in particular cases.” Gisbrecht v. Barnhart, 535 U.S. 789, 807 13 (2002). Section 406(b) “instructs courts to review for reasonableness” fees yielded under 14 contingent fee agreements, taking into account both the character of the representation and the 15 results achieved. Gisbrecht, 535 U.S. at 808. Congress has provided a single guideline: 16 Contingency agreements are unenforceable to the extent that they provide for fees in excess of 17 twenty-five per cent of past-due benefits. Id. at 807. Within the twenty-five percent corridor, the 18 attorney for a successful claimant must demonstrate that the fee is reasonable for the services that 19 he or she provided. Id. 20 “[D]istrict courts generally have been deferential to the terms of contingency fee contracts 21 in § 406(b) cases.” Hearn v. Barnhart, 262 F.Supp.2d 1033, 1037 (N.D.Cal. 2003). Attorneys 22 who agree to represent claimants pursuant to a contingent fee agreement assume the risk of 23 receiving no compensation for their time and effort if the action does not succeed. Id. Here, 24 Cerney accepted substantial risk of loss in representing Plaintiff, whose application had already 25 been denied at the administrative level. Plaintiff agreed to the contingent fee. Working 26 efficiently and effectively, the attorneys secured a remand, and ultimately, the award of 27 substantial benefits to Plaintiff. 28 /// 2 1 III. Conclusion and Order 2 Accordingly, this Court hereby GRANTS Plaintiff’s petition for attorneys’ fees of 3 $11,381.00, net of the previously awarded fee of $4500.00 under the Equal Access to Justice Act 4 (EAJA), for a total amount of $6881.00. 5 6 IT IS SO ORDERED. 7 Dated: icido3 July 28, 2011 /s/ Sandra M. Snyder UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 3

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