Cain v. Commissioner of Social Security
ORDER granting 29 Motion for Attorney Fees and awarding attorneys fees in the amount of $8,900.00. Signed by Magistrate Judge Charles B Goodwin on 03/09/2018. (jb)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF OKLAHOMA
RICHARD LEE CAIN,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL,
Acting Commissioner of the
Social Security Administration,
Case No. CIV-16-774-CG
This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff’s counsel Kyle J. Saunders’ motion for
an award of attorney’s fees in the amount of $8,900.00 under 42 U.S.C. § 406(b).
Saunders’ Mot. (Doc. No. 29) at 1-16.1 Defendant did not respond to the motion within
the time allowed. See Order of Feb. 9, 2018, at 2.
On January 27, 2017, the Court entered a Judgment reversing the Acting
Commissioner’s final decision denying Plaintiff’s application for disability insurance
benefits (“DIB”) and supplemental security income (“SSI”) and remanding the case for
further administrative proceedings under the fourth sentence of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). See J.
(Doc. No. 23) at 1. On December 19, 2017, an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) issued
a “fully favorable” decision finding Plaintiff disabled as of January 31, 2011.
The Court previously authorized Mr. Saunders to file a § 406(b) motion after receiving
the Acting Commissioner’s notice calculating Plaintiff’s award of past-due benefits. Order
of Feb. 9, 2018 (Doc. No. 30) at 1-2; see McGraw v. Barnhart, 450 F.3d 493, 505 (10th
Saunders’ Mot. at 2. The Acting Commissioner awarded Plaintiff $59,616.00 in past-due
benefits. See Saunders’ Mot. Ex. 2 (Doc. No. 29-2) at 4.
Subsection 406(b) provides that “[w]henever a court renders a 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 . . . .” 42 U.S.C. § 406(b)(1)(A). This
subsection “does not displace contingent-fee agreements as the primary means by which
fees are set for successfully representing Social Security benefits claimants in court” so
long as the agreed-upon amount stays within the statute’s “25 percent boundary.”
Gisbrecht v. Barnhart, 535 U.S. 789, 807 (2002). “[T]he attorney for the successful
claimant must show that the fee sought is reasonable for the services rendered” in the
particular case. Id.
Plaintiff and Mr. Saunders agreed that Mr. Saunders may collect attorney’s fees “for
representation before the court” in an amount equal to 25 percent “of the past-due benefits
resulting from” Plaintiff’s claim. See Saunders’ Mot. Ex. 1 (Doc. No. 29-1) at 1. Mr.
Saunders has submitted a statement showing that he spent 27.20 hours litigating Plaintiff’s
case in federal court, which results in an effective hourly rate of $327.21. Saunders’ Mot.
at 12; Saunders’ Mot. Ex. 3 (Doc. No. 29-3) at 1-2; see Gisbrecht, 535 U.S. at 793, 808
(rejecting the “lodestar” method of calculating fee awards under § 406(b), but noting that
the district court may consider this information in contingency-fee cases to help them
assess “the reasonableness of the fee yielded by the fee agreement”). This straight-forward
case was resolved fairly quickly on Defendant’s unopposed motion for sentence-four
remand. Def.’s Mot. Remand (Doc. No. 20) at 1-3; Order of Jan. 27, 2017 (Doc. No. 22)
at 1. Still, Mr. Saunders had to spend time reviewing the administrative record, and his
opening brief presented a well-supported argument that the ALJ erred in denying Plaintiff’s
DIB and SSI claims. See generally Pl.’s Br. (Doc. No. 15) at 1-16. Mr. Saunders also
correctly notes that his requested fee award is only fifteen percent of the $59,616.00 that
Plaintiff was awarded in past-due benefits—considerably less than the agreed-upon
contingency fee. Saunders Mot. at 9. Having carefully reviewed Mr. Saunders’ motion
and supporting documentation, the Court finds that $8,900.00 is a reasonable fee award for
the amount of work performed in this case. Cf. Cornell v. Berryhill, No. CIV-14-916-C,
2017 WL 1051136, at *1 (W.D. Okla. Mar. 20, 2017) (awarding $9,820.50 in attorney’s
fees for 29.65 hours of work in federal court).
Accordingly, Mr. Saunders’ motion (Doc. No. 29) is GRANTED, and he is awarded
attorney’s fees in the amount of $8,900.00. 42 U.S.C. § 406(b). The Acting Commissioner
shall pay this amount directly to Plaintiff’s attorney, Kyle J. Saunders, of The Saunders
Law Group, P.C., P.O. Box 1605, Ada, Oklahoma 74820. Mr. Saunders shall promptly
refund to Plaintiff the $5,222.40 in attorney’s fees that the Court previously awarded under
28 U.S.C. § 2412. Order of Mar. 27, 2017 at 1-2; Weakley v. Bowen, 803 F.2d 575, 580
(10th Cir. 1986); Gisbrecht, 535 U.S. at 796.
IT IS SO ORDERED this 9th day of March, 2018.
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?