Thompson v. Commissioner of Social Security
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION THAT: (1) PLAINTIFFS COUNSELS UNOPPOSED MOTION FOR APPROVAL OF ATTORNEYS FEES (DOC. 12 ) BE GRANTED; (2) FEES, PURSUANT TO 42 U.S.C. § 406(b), IN THE AMOUNT OF $16,191.00 BE AWARDED; AND (3) THIS CASE REMAIN TERMINATED ON THE COURTS DOCKET. Objections to R&R due by 8/10/2017. Signed by Magistrate Judge Michael J. Newman on 7/27/2017. (srb)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
WESTERN DIVISION AT DAYTON
JASON F. THOMPSON,
Case No. 3:15-cv-382
District Judge Thomas M. Rose
Magistrate Judge Michael J. Newman
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION1 THAT: (1) PLAINTIFF’S COUNSEL’S
UNOPPOSED MOTION FOR APPROVAL OF ATTORNEY’S FEES (DOC. 12) BE
GRANTED; (2) FEES, PURSUANT TO 42 U.S.C. § 406(b), IN THE AMOUNT OF
$16,191.00 BE AWARDED; AND (3) THIS CASE REMAIN TERMINATED ON THE
On May 13, 2016, Judge Rose, upon joint motion of the parties (doc. 9), remanded this
case to the Commissioner of Social Security for further proceedings. Doc. 10. Subsequently,
Plaintiff received an award of benefits under the Social Security Act. See docs. 12-4, 12-5, and
12-6. This case is back before the undersigned on a motion by Plaintiff’s counsel for an award
of attorney’s fees under 42 U.S.C. § 406(b)(1), in which counsel requests a 25% contingency fee
award in the amount of $16,191.00. Doc. 12. The Commissioner does not oppose Plaintiff’s
counsel’s motion and agrees the requested fee is consistent with the requirements of § 406(b).
Doc. 13. Accordingly, counsel’s unopposed motion for attorney’s fees is ripe for decision.
In Social Security cases, the Court is authorized to award attorney’s fees following the
successful prosecution of a Social Security disability appeal. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 406(b)(1),
Attached hereto is a NOTICE to the parties regarding objections to this Report and
However, such fees may not exceed 25% of the past-due benefits which the
claimant receives as a result of the appeal. Id. Furthermore, the attorney must show, and the
Court must affirmatively find, that a contingency fee sought, even one within the 25% cap, is
reasonable for the services rendered. Gisbrecht v. Barnhard, 535 U.S. 789, 807 (2002).
The Social Security Act “does not displace contingen[cy]-fee agreements,” but rather
“calls for court review of such arrangements as an independent check, to assure that they yield
reasonable results in particular cases.” Id. A 25% contingency fee agreement “should be given
the weight ordinarily accorded a rebuttable presumption.” Rodriquez v. Brown, 865 F.2d 739,
746 (6th Cir. 1989). A reduction of a contingency fee award may be appropriate when counsel
acts improperly or provides ineffective assistance, or when “counsel would otherwise enjoy a
windfall because of either an inordinately large benefit award or from minimal effort expended.”
Id. Such an award is not improper merely because it results in an above-average hourly rate.
Royzer v. Sec’y of Health & Human Servs., 900 F.2d 981, 981-82 (6th Cir. 1990).
As the Sixth Circuit explained:
It is not at all unusual for contingent fees to translate into large hourly
rates if the rate is computed as the trial judge has computed it here
[dividing the hours worked into the amount of the requested fee]. In
assessing the reasonableness of a contingent fee award, we cannot ignore
the fact that the attorney will not prevail every time. The hourly rate in the
next contingent fee case will be zero, unless benefits are awarded.
Contingent fees generally overcompensate in some cases and
undercompensate in others. It is the nature of the beast.
Id. “A hypothetical hourly rate that is less than twice the standard rate is per se reasonable, and a
hypothetical hourly rate that is equal to or greater than twice the standard rate may well be
reasonable.” Hayes v. Sec’y of Health & Human Servs., 923 F.2d 418, 422 (6th Cir. 1990).
Counsel represents that her firm worked a total of 62.75 hours, 3.5 of which were worked
by a legal assistant. See doc. 12-1 at PageID 1406. Counsel’s requested fee of $16,191.00,
divided by the 62.75 hours spent working on the case, results in a hypothetical hourly rate of
$270.31 for counsel and $50 for the services of counsel’s legal assistant -- rates the
Commissioner agrees are reasonable (doc. 13 at PageID 1473). Having considered counsel’s
unopposed motion and all attachments thereto, and further considering counsel’s experience, the
undersigned agrees that the fee sought is reasonable and does not result in an undeserved
Accordingly, it is RECOMMENDED THAT: (1) Plaintiff’s motion for attorney’s fees
under the Social Security Act (doc. 12) be GRANTED; (2) Plaintiff’s counsel be AWARDED
the requested sum of $16,191.00 in attorney’s fees; and (3) this case remain TERMINATED on
the Court’s docket.
July 27, 2017
s/ Michael J. Newman
Michael J. Newman
United States Magistrate Judge
NOTICE REGARDING OBJECTIONS
Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b), any party may serve and file specific, written
objections to the proposed findings and recommendations within FOURTEEN days after being
served with this Report and Recommendation. This period is not extended by virtue of Fed. R.
Civ. P. 6(d) if served on you by electronic means, such as via the Court’s CM/ECF filing system.
If, however, this Report and Recommendation was served upon you by mail, this deadline is
extended to SEVENTEEN DAYS by application of Fed. R. Civ. P. 6(d). Parties may seek an
extension of the deadline to file objections by filing a motion for extension, which the Court may
grant upon a showing of good cause.
Any objections filed shall specify the portions of the Report and Recommendation
objected to, and shall be accompanied by a memorandum of law in support of the objections. If
the Report and Recommendation is based, in whole or in part, upon matters occurring of record
at an oral hearing, the objecting party shall promptly arrange for the transcription of the record,
or such portions of it as all parties may agree upon or the Magistrate Judge deems sufficient,
unless the assigned District Judge otherwise directs.
A party may respond to another party’s objections within FOURTEEN days after being
served with a copy thereof. As noted above, this period is not extended by virtue of Fed. R. Civ.
P. 6(d) if served on you by electronic means, such as via the Court’s CM/ECF filing system. If,
however, this Report and Recommendation was served upon you by mail, this deadline is
extended to SEVENTEEN DAYS by application of Fed. R. Civ. P. 6(d).
Failure to make objections in accordance with this procedure may forfeit rights on appeal.
See Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 153-55 (1985); United States v. Walters, 638 F.2d 947, 949-50
(6th Cir. 1981).
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