McFeaters v. Commissioner of Social Security
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING 26 MOTION for Attorney Fees (42 U.S.C. § 406(b)) filed by Jane M McFeaters and AWARDING attorney fees under 42 U.S.C. § 406(b) in the amount of $18,152.33, which already accounts for the offset of EAJA fees. Signed by Judge Theresa L Springmann on 1/7/2021. (lhc)
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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
SOUTH BEND DIVISION
JANE M. MCFEATERS,
CAUSE NO.: 3:19-CV-34-TLS-JPK
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of the
Social Security Administration,
OPINION AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on the Plaintiff’s Motion for Approval of Attorney Fees
Under 42 U.S.C. § 406(b) [ECF No. 26]. The Plaintiff’s attorney requests attorney fees in the
amount of $18,152.33 pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 406(b). Pl.’s Mem. 4, ECF No. 27. The Defendant
has filed a Response [ECF No. 29] indicating that he does not oppose the Plaintiff’s Motion. For
the reasons stated below, the Plaintiff’s Motion is GRANTED.
The Plaintiff initiated this action for judicial review of the Commissioner of Social
Security’s decision denying her application for disability insurance benefits. On January 21,
2020, the Court granted the Plaintiff’s request, reversing and remanding for further proceedings.
ECF No. 22. On April 22, 2020, the Court awarded $11,482.57 in attorney fees under the Equal
Access to Justice Act (EAJA), 28 U.S.C. § 2412. ECF No. 25.
On remand, the Social Security Administration issued a Notice of Award entitling the
Plaintiff to past-due disability insurance benefits in the amount of $118,539.60, twenty-five
percent of which is $29,634.90. See Notice of Award 4, ECF No. 27-2. The Plaintiff filed the
instant motion [ECF No. 26] on December 10, 2020, requesting that the Court award Plaintiff’s
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counsel $18,152.33 in attorney fees pursuant to § 406(b). This amount is based on the retainer
agreement between the Plaintiff and her attorney [ECF No. 27-1], in which the Plaintiff agreed to
pay her attorney twenty-five percent of all past-due benefits for work at the federal court level.
The requested amount of $18,152.33 for § 406(b) fees is based on the twenty-five percent of
past-due benefits of $29,634.90 minus the EAJA fees in the amount of $11,482.57. See Pl.’s
The Plaintiff’s counsel requests $18,152.33 in attorney fees pursuant to 42 U.S.C
§ 406(b). The Social Security Act allows for a reasonable fee to be awarded both for
representation at the administrative level, see 42 U.S.C. § 406(a), as well as representation before
the Court, see 42 U.S.C § 406(b). Culbertson v. Berryhill, 139 S. Ct. 517, 520 (2019) (quoting
Gisbrecht v. Barnhart, 535 U.S. 789, 794 (2002)). Under § 406(b), the Court may award a
reasonable fee to the attorney who has successfully represented the claimant in federal court, not
to exceed twenty-five percent of the past-due benefits to which the social security claimant is
entitled. 42 U.S.C. § 406(b)(1)(A); Gisbrecht, 535 U.S. at 792. The reasonableness analysis
considers the “character of the representation and the results the representative achieved.”
Gisbrecht, 535 U.S. at 808. Reasons to reduce an award include an attorney’s unjustifiable delay
or if the past-due benefits are large in comparison to the amount of time an attorney has spent on
a case. Id. 808. In addition, an award of EAJA fees under 28 U.S.C. § 2412 offsets an award
under § 406(b). Id. at 796.
In this case, the requested amount of attorney fees is consistent with the contingency
agreement. The Plaintiff’s counsel represents that the proposed fee equals an effective hourly
rate of approximately $529.00 for the combined EAJA and § 406(b) fees. See Pl’s Mem. 6. Such
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an hourly rate is reasonable given the contingent nature of this case. See, e.g., Osmun v. Comm’r
of Soc. Sec., 1:16-CV-273, 2020 WL 7334271, *3 (N.D. Ind. Dec. 14, 2020) (effective hourly
rate of $525); Niebuhr v. Saul, 18-CV-720, 2020 WL 6484488, at *1 (W.D. Wis. Nov. 4, 2020)
(effective hourly rate of $579); Koester v. Astrue, 482 F. Supp. 2d 1078, 1083 (E.D. Wis. 2007)
(collecting cases showing that district courts have awarded attorney fees with hourly rates
ranging from $400 to $1,500). In addition, counsel obtained a great benefit for the Plaintiff of
$118,539.60 in past-due benefits.
For the reasons stated above, the Court GRANTS the Plaintiff’s Motion for Approval of
Attorney Fees Under 42 U.S.C. § 406(b) [ECF No. 26] and AWARDS attorney fees under 42
U.S.C. § 406(b) in the amount of $18,152.33, which already accounts for the offset of EAJA
SO ORDERED on January 7, 2021.
s/ Theresa L. Springmann
JUDGE THERESA L. SPRINGMANN
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
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