Cruz v. Commissioner of Social Security

Filing 28

ORDER granting 27 Motion for Attorney Fees. See Order for further details. Signed by Magistrate Judge Anthony E. Porcelli on 7/3/2024. (KBP)

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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA TAMPA DIVISION PEDRO CRUZ, Plaintiff, v. Case No. 8:22-CV-01502-AEP MARTIN J. O’MALLEY, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant. / ORDER This cause comes before the Court upon Attorney David B. Goetz’s Request for Authorization to Charge a Reasonable Fee pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 406(b). (Doc. 27). On August 15, 2023, this Court entered an Order reversing and remanding the decision of the Commissioner under sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). (Doc. 23). Upon remand, the Commissioner issued a favorable decision for Plaintiff resulting in an award of disability benefits. (See Doc. 27-2). As a result of the favorable decision, Plaintiff’s counsel now seeks payment of fees in the amount of $15,712.63 pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 406(b). The Commissioner does not oppose the requested relief. Under 42 U.S.C. § 406(b), when a court renders a judgment favorable to a Social Security claimant who was represented before the court by counsel, the court may allow a reasonable fee for such representation, not to exceed twenty-five percent of the total past-due benefits to which the claimant is entitled. 42 U.S.C. § 406(b)(1)(A). A plaintiff’s counsel may recover attorney’s fees under both 42 U.S.C. § 406(b) and the Equal Access to Justice Act (“EAJA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2412. Gisbrecht v. Barnhart, 535 U.S. 789, 796 (2002). The plaintiff’s attorney must, however, refund to the plaintiff the amount of the smaller fee. Id. The Court previously awarded Plaintiff’s fees in the amount of $6,072.12, pursuant to the EAJA, 28 U.S.C. § 2412. (Doc. 26). The fee agreement entered into by Plaintiff and Plaintiff’s counsel states that twenty-five percent of all retroactive benefits obtained for Plaintiff will be paid to the firm of Plaintiff’s attorney as compensation for their services. (Doc. 27-1). After the disability finding, the Social Security Administration withheld a total of $21,789.75 from Plaintiff’s past-due benefits for possible payment of attorney’s fees in federal court. (Doc. 27-2, at 3). Plaintiff’s counsel requests an award of attorney’s fees in the amount of $15,712.63 [25% of the past-due benefits, $21,789.75, minus the EAJA fees awarded, $6,072.12]. Upon review of the fee agreement (Doc. 27-1) and the itemization of services rendered by counsel (Doc. 27-3), the Court determines that an award of fees in the amount of $15,712.63 is reasonable and appropriate. Moreover, in light of the time spent on the case, the requested fee is not so large as to result in a windfall for Plaintiff’s counsel. See Vilkas v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., No. 2:03CV687FTM-29DNF, 2007 WL 1498115, at *2 (M.D. Fla. May 14, 2007) (finding reasonable a § 406(b) fee that amounted to payment of $1,121.86 per hour for attorney’s representation of plaintiff before the court). Accordingly, it is hereby 2 ORDERED: 1. Plaintiff’s request for an award of attorney’s fees under 42 U.S.C. § 406(b) (Doc. 27) is GRANTED. 2. Plaintiff’s counsel is awarded fees in the amount of $15,712.63 pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 406(b). DONE AND ORDERED in Tampa, Florida, on this 3rd day of July 2024. cc: Counsel of Record 3

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